Rush Limbaugh: Trump Is Making a Strategic Mistake in the Way He’s Going After Cruz
RUSH: I want to paraphrase an e-mail that I received. It’s like a number of e-mails that I have received. As I said, I’m paraphrasing it because it represents quite a few people who are e-mailing. They’re confused and they don’t know what to do. These are Republicans, slash, conservative primary voters. And they are — well, they’re confused. “Mr. Limbaugh, I have no idea anymore where I belong in the Republican Party. I don’t know what the Republican Party stands for, and I don’t know if conservatism has a home in it any longer or not. My problem is compounded by the fact that I do not like either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. And yet it looks like I’ve got no choice but than to support one of them.”
The numbers are Trump 32, Cruz 18, Rubio 11. Wait. Jeb is at 13. So it actually goes Trump 32, Cruz 18, Jeb 13, Rubio 11, Carson’s at nine, and everybody else is at four, three, or two. Now, in this same poll back on December 20th, Trump was at 38, so he’s down six in this poll. Cruz was at 23. He’s down five since December 20th. Rubio was at 12, statistically even, lost a point. Jeb was at 7% back in December. Now he’s at 13, nearly doubled his support. Again, this is the Augusta Chronicle.
The point I’m making here is the establishment is gonna glom onto this. This is like life support. This is like they’re very, very badly injured in an accident, and they’ve been brought to the ER in the ambulance, and all is thought that the patient pretty much is in a hopeless situation, and all of a sudden they detect a pulse that’s getting stronger, and they immediately go into action to try to improve the survivability of the person they thought had pretty much cashed it in. Now, what’s fascinating here, it’s really been interesting to watch and read about the Republican establishment and the Drive-By Media, because if I didn’t know any better, I would be confused.
Members of the establishment — and I mean elected Republicans and the Republican leadership and the so-called Republican media, the RNC, people inside the Beltway, have savaged me for not single-handedly taking out Donald Trump. Would you agree with that assessment, Mr. Snerdley? I have been savaged profoundly by these people, either by virtue of the written word or in various tweets or maybe even comments on cable news shows. That I am faux conservative, that I’m not real, that I’m letting my audience down because Trump’s never been a conservative, and Limbaugh knew it and wouldn’t take him out.
And then over the weekend I read that that very same establishment has decided to throw in with Trump, because they so despise Cruz. So here I have been in recent months savaged and criticized. And, by the way, you don’t see me crying about it. (interruption) No, no, no, I’m not saying that anybody else is. I’m just saying it’s the game, if you will, it’s the league everybody plays in here.
It’s like Trump and his criticism of Cruz. This has got so many conservatives just bent out of whack, they can’t see straight. because there’s always been this assumption that Cruz and Trump were a couple. They were a united pair. They both had a common opponent, and that was the Republican establishment. And that arrangement, such as it was perceived to exist, was fine and dandy with Trump so long as he was in first place. Then we saw the poll numbers switch, and Cruz jumped out to a lead in Iowa. And, you know, bye-bye bromance or couple or whatever it is. Trump sets his sights on whoever he wants to tear down, and that in this case is Cruz.
And I’ll tell you, folks, let me dispel something else, too. I don’t know what the perception is. I have spoken to Donald Trump one time in this entire campaign, and it was way back when the McCain thing happened, shortly after I guess he made his announcement, and he made the comments about John McCain, said, “I prefer generals that don’t get captured. I don’t have a lot of respect for McCain.” I talked to Trump then. He called here. And I have not talked to him since.
Now, I have trouble talking to people on the phone. I had a conversation (I mentioned this last week) with a ranking member of the Republican establishment. They know I can’t hear, and they call anyway. I heard half of what he said. I got tired of saying, “Wait, would you say that again?” It’s just a very, very difficult thing for me to do, to have a substantive conversation. I have to spend so much time concentrating on what I’m trying to comprehend, especially if it’s a cell call, that I miss half of it and have to go back through it.
It limits my ability to be an open and free participant in here, because so much of my energy is focused on just trying to understand what the hell I’m being told, but it doesn’t matter. Even though they know I can’t hear they call and go through what they’re thinking and planning and so forth and want me to know. Which I appreciate. Don’t misunderstand. By the way, speaking of that little offshoot, remind me of this. Wi-Fi calling may be the saving grace of me being able to use the phone again, that and FaceTime audio. I’ll explain that later.
Anyway, I have not spoken to Trump. I don’t call him to give him advice; he doesn’t call here asking for it. I don’t know who else, if anybody else, he calls. But I don’t think he’s taking advice from anybody. Maybe from his inner circle and so forth. But when it comes to this Cruz business… Look, he’s doing two things that are not unique. A, he’s going after Cruz’s likability. Well, folks, you don’t need me to tell you that this is an often-heard criticism of Cruz from all over the place, long before Trump even started criticizing Cruz.
I mean, I go out and I tell people I like Cruz and I get, “Man, I don’t know. He just seems like not a real guy. He seems like the televangelist stealing all the money.” I hear it all. It’s not unique that Trump would go after Cruz on the fact that he’s a nasty guy. I don’t even think Trump means it. I think it’s… This is politics, and Cruz is ready for this and is prepared for it — and, in fact, is dealing with it masterfully. Trump knows — and I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt here, but I know he’s a smart guy.
He knows that this business of Cruz running around and using the phrase “New York values” was not an insult to anybody about 9/11. Trump knows it. It just provided him an opportunity to shore up his credentials with people in New York. It provided him an opportunity to go after his primary, number one opponent. But guess what? Cruz has flipped that and turned that around masterfully, and it has resulted in the unearthing of a Donald Trump appearance on Meet the Press with Tim Russert way back in which Trump admits to all of his liberalism in the past.
So I sit back and I watch all of this play out. We’re watching a couple of really qualified professionals in the communications game go at it. And, as is in the past, I do not even consider inserting myself in the middle of it, other than to tell you things I’m telling you here on the air. And I will tell you, like I’ve said before, that I think Trump is making a strategic error in the way he criticizes Cruz. But, folks, it’s unrealistic to expect that they’re not gonna go after each other. They’re number one and two. Iowa and New Hampshire are at stake.
This is politics.
There’s only one winner. The two of them can’t win this together in some sort of a bromance and come out as a united couple after either one of these primaries or after the whole process. It’s not how it works. They’re both gonna try to take each other out and they’re both gonna have their own strategies for doing so. Now, Trump I think is… You know, Trump knows his coalition. He knows who his base is. His base is made of many people, more than just conservatives. However, there are a boatload of conservatives in Trump’s…
I’m gonna say “audience,” here, but I mean his support base, the people who intend to vote for him. There’s a lot of conservatives, disaffected and angry with the Republican Party. And there are a lot of conservatives that support Trump who don’t like Ted Cruz. I can’t explain it, but I hear it all over the place. I hear all kinds of love, respect, and admiration for Cruz. And I hear people at the same time who don’t like him for whatever reason they conjure up. I remember when Scott Walker was the front-runner. People down here, my neighbors and friends, said, “I don’t like Scott Walker. He doesn’t have a prayer.”
“His eyes are too close together.”
I said, “What?”
“Yeah, his eyes are too close together. He looks shifty. Just so trustworthy. I don’t know.”
This bunch were supporting Kasich. Who can explain any of this? I certainly am… Well, there’s nobody better than me to explain it. But justify it? That’s… I think Trump going after Cruz is quite normal; it’s understandable. But I think he’s making a tactical error the way he’s doing it. Whatever you want to say, Cruz is not a “nasty” guy. When you get into criticism, it better be believable. But Trump is looking at Cruz, and I’m sure is hearing about the negatives that Cruz has, and I’m not gonna sit here and pretend to you that they don’t exist.
Heck, folks, even in my own circle of friends there are people that don’t like Cruz or Bush or Rubio. It runs the gamut. And it all perplexes me. I told you about the dinner party I had at my house where the guests hated Sarah Palin. I walked out of my own dinner party when I started hearing why and so forth. I did. I had to go to a golf tournament, so I just left six hours early. I did. I left there, went out the front door, and got in the car (it was already packed), hit the airport, and, bam!
I’m out of there. Kathryn’s left there thinking, “Oh, my God. What just happened?” Poor Kathryn. Well, she was a champ. She hung in there, and she saved the night. There were kids at the table, but I started yelling and screaming. I was confronted with so much of what I thought was stupidity. These guys are basically saying, “The media’s destroyed Palin. It’s stupid to try to prop her up and save her! We’re never gonna win if the media doesn’t like our candidate.”
I say, “Really, you guys? It’s that easy? You gonna let the media choose our candidate?”
“The media’s destroyed her, Rush. It’s just that simple. There nothing we can do.”
I said, “Well, I can’t handle this.” This is not… These guys are not fighters, battlers, or what have you. Plus they’ve got this belief media doesn’t like our candidate, we don’t have a prayer. So I was out of there. I think Trump is free to criticize Cruz all he wants as far as I’m concerned, but going after him as a “nasty” guy and on this birther business, he’s gotta worry that it’s gonna create more negatives within his own support base rather than turn people off to Cruz. And he’s gotta consider the opportunity that it’s providing Cruz in responding.
Like Cruz has come up now twice with… He’s doubling down. He’s taking Trump’s lesson on this whole insulting New Yorkers thing. Trump has made it possible for Cruz to double down on his apology. He’s apologized twice now. He’s apologizing to the people in New York for the people that are leading them. “I feel bad for you. I’m sorry as hell that you have a governor as bad as Cuomo, and I’m sorry as heck you have a mayor as bad as de Blasio, and I apologize. I wish there was something I could do about it, but you voted for ’em, not me.”
So Trump has given Cruz the opportunity to make his point over and over again and to show that he’s not cowering in fear in the corner and running away from it. And in the midst of all this, Cruz, in responding to this, is not even mentioning Trump’s name, which is… That’s lesson number one. You don’t mention the opponent. It’s like they don’t even exist. You just go about your business. Cruz is doing all of that. Trump is not number one in Iowa. Well, in some polls he is. But Cruz has been in the lead there for a while.
I just think it’s like I’ve always said when he first went after Cruz using liberal criticism. I mentioned it here. I did not call him, haven’t talked to him, don’t get calls from him. I don’t… I’m not an advisor to anybody. I just tell you. You people in this audience, you are my focus every day. I do this program for you. The show is the thing, and the audience is why there is a show. And so my focus here is being honest with you about what I think, not carrying somebody else’s water — or in some cases, even, a movement’s water. At some point, it’s up to them.
RUSH: Trump was in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He had an appearance over the weekend, and he got booed. It’s the first time the Drive-Bys can remember Trump getting booed, and the boos got louder and louder and louder as Trump became in more and more critical of Cruz. It did not deter Trump. He started chiding the audience. “Well, hey,” and then he said whatever he said. “Hey, the guy’s going out and getting loans, and not telling you about it. Say whatever you want to say. The guy may be prime minister of Canada, but he’s not legally….”
He just didn’t drop the riff. He kept going. The boos got louder and louder. However, when it was over he got a standing O. Both things happened. The boo birds cannot walk out. Here’s NBC’s report. “Among conservatives, Donald Trump can typically do no wrong — until he attacks Ted Cruz.” That is wrong. The Drive-By Media is assuming — and they don’t have to. You can find this out. The research is in, to the extent that it exists. Donald Trump has lots of conservatives who do not like him. I hear from them all the time.
There are a lot of conservatives who prefer Rubio or who prefer Ted Cruz — some people, Chris Christie. But there are a lot of conservatives (you’ve heard them call here) that do not like Trump because they don’t think he is one. There are a lot of conservatives who think that he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, that he’s a traditional, lifetime New Yorker — and that means something. There are all kinds of conservatives with suspicions of Donald Trump. Yet NBC, “Among conservatives, Donald Trump can typically do no wrong…”
That’s wrong right out the gate. Now, there are some conservatives in the crowd in Myrtle Beach; there are conservatives in Trump’s coalition, of course. And they are conservatives and supporting Trump for specific reasons. Among them, Trump is fighting back against what they perceive to be a common enemy, and that’s Washington, the establishment, the people who are working and looking out for themselves and not the rest of the country. But Trump’s coalition is 20% Democrat, maybe more.
There are a lot of Hispanics. There are a lot of African-Americans. There are a lot of women. People who are traditionally not thought of in the Republican coalition. So Trump’s cross-section of people is pretty diverse, but it’s not uniformly conservative. So when you say NBC reporting on Trump being booed, they think it’s big news inside conservatism, but it’s not. To those of us who are conservative and know the movement and know people in it, we’ve long been aware that there are conservatives that do not like Trump and some stridently do not like Trump.
Then NBC says, “On Saturday, Trump drew boos from a grassroots conservative crowd during remarks at the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention for his attack on Cruz’s previously undisclosed loans. ‘You give a campaign contribution to Ted Cruz, you get whatever the hell you want,’ he said, before boos erupted from the crowd. Trump went on as the boos grew louder…” Trump tried to shout out and shout down the booers, the boo birds. He got louder and louder and became defiant.
He said, “Say whatever you want; it’s okay. He didn’t report his bank loans. He’s got bank loans from Goldman Sachs, he’s got bank loans from Citibank, folks, and then he acts like Robin Hood?” So everybody’s wondering, “Is Trump hurting himself here or not? Is this bad?” I mean, Trump’s… The Drive-Bys, and a lot of people other people, too. Okay, so Trump’s perceived audience is conservative. Now he’s going after one of the most popular conservatives in the race. People start booing. Oh, it’s just…
Folks, it could be exactly as I forewarned. People understand in a primary — and particularly conservatives who are very much attuned to the way things happen. They full well understand these guys are going after each other. Carly Fiorina, too. Everybody’s gonna go after each other. It’s a primary. It’s the way Trump is doing it that is unsettling and unnerving to people. Whether or not it’s going to manifest in Trump losing support or energetic support of some conservatives, only time will tell.
But it doesn’t seem that Trump is concerned about that, ’cause he’s ratcheting it up. Now, Cruz is a “nasty” guy. “Believe me, he is a nasty guy. He’s a mean guy, and everybody knows it. Look around. Everybody that’s met Ted Cruz hates the guy. Mitch McConnell hates the guy, Harry Reid hates the guy. They all hate the guy. Everybody says he’s a nasty guy, a nasty guy.” It’s nothing that hasn’t been said by others, but because these two have been considered to be unified, the top two in the race, both with a common enemy, there was all this time an expression of mutual respect.
They criticized everybody but each other. But then that all changed when Cruz takes the lead in Iowa, and Trump doesn’t want to lose Iowa. And this is the way Trump goes after everybody. It shouldn’t be a surprise here. You can say all day long you think it’s a mistake, and I do. I’m not criticizing Cruz. I mean, these are things that have to happen. Whenever a Republican or conservative attacks a fellow Republican or conservative using the same language or the same approach that Democrats and liberals would, that’s a huge red flag.
Always has been.
And whether or not it’s gonna hurt Trump, it isn’t going to help. Or, wait. Could it? Could it, actually? You might have to consider something that’s unthinkable. Do not discount it. I mean, do not discount the possibility that all that you’ve heard about how unliked Cruz is… I mean, it is real. It is baffles me. I have to say, it baffles me. I’ve met Cruz a couple, three times. The criticism I hear most often about Cruz is that he doesn’t seem natural, seems like he’s just constantly… What’s the word? Earnest all the time.
He just never seems relaxed, doesn’t seem casual, ever. And it unnerves people. I think what that is is Cruz is just so smart, and he knows exactly who he is and what he thinks and is proud of it. And he knows the kind of attacks that conservatives get and have always received. And he knows that moderating his behavior to please contradicts does not mollify contradicts. You can’t change who unresponsive and the way you act and have people who criticize you all of a sudden like you, particularly if they’re liberals or Democrats or members of the Republican establishment.
He’s just decided he’s gonna be who he is. I just think it unnerves people, like it unnerves people whenever you encounter somebody that’s so damn sure of themselves. “That’s just not possible. Nobody could be that certain of everything.” It’s not natural people, it’s not natural to be that sure of yourself, not natural think you’ve got all the answers. And they end up getting offended or feeling some other insecurity or what have you.
But smart people have the tendency sometimes to come off as calculating, and certainly not casual or relaxed. And it has… It just unnerves some people, and it makes them go from feeling unnerved and bothered to maybe, “I don’t like it. I just don’t like it.” So it’s like, as I said earlier, the “nasty” guy that Trump is saying. I don’t think — and I’m wild guessing here. I don’t think he really believes that. I don’t think he thinks Cruz is a nasty guy. It’s just the way Trump campaigns.
It’s the way Trump deals. I mean, look at what he did to the guy that runs Macy’s. It’s entirely in character and it isn’t personal. I mean, Trump was at Liberty University today. Liberty University, Jerry Falwell’s university, and Trump did something I’ve not heard him do before. He praised Christianity. He said Christianity’s under attack and we’ve gotta band together, we gotta come together. This country’s Christian, he says, I’m proud of my Christianity, I’m proud of being Christian, I’m Presbyterian, I’m Protestant, but I’m proud of it. But we’re all Christians, 75, 80% of the people of this country are Christians, we’ve gotta band together. And that was it, there was applause and so forth.
Now, I watched the faces of the people on the other side of the glass. They all started laughing. Everybody just started laughing. Nobody got mad at it. I mean, a lot of people, “He just slammed the Bible. You don’t say the Bible nails it. You don’t say the Bible kills it. You don’t say the Bible,” whatever the actual term he used. “He didn’t show respect to the Bible, to compare his book to the Bible?” That’s not the reaction, because they know. It’s all part of the connection I keep trying to tell people about that Trump has with his supporters or with the people interested in him.