There is one bargain the pair can make to unify the party and appease conservatives.
So you’ve just lost every county in every state up for grabs in the Atlantic Quintet — after getting pounded in New York. What do you do now? It’s time to make not just a deal, but the deal to unite the Republicans and set America back on course.
Strategy is never about winning just the next battle. It’s about the long-term win. When it comes to negotiating, timing can either multiply your leverage or weaken it. Cruz should have made a deal right after Wisconsin. Coming off a big victory with so much of the rest of the race still in doubt — now that was a commanding leverage position.
But since Wisconsin, Cruz has made a series of tactical blunders that are eroding his leverage beyond any aspects of timing. After New York, he hitched his wagon to Kasich, only to get slaughtered in the Atlantic primaries. By Wednesday, Cruz was standing in a wagon that had no wheels and asking Carly Fiorina to ride shotgun. But she delivers exactly one delegate — not exactly high-powered.
If Cruz keeps bleeding leverage, Trump may not be inclined to make any deal. The leverage Cruz has left is that magical 1,237 Trump truly wants so badly. Making a deal now, before Indiana, multiples that leverage.
What is this deal? It’s not for VP. After months of #NeverTrump and #LyinTed, a unity ticket has lost any sense of credibility. So, here’s the deal: Cruz immediately suspends his campaign in all states. In exchange, Cruz gets the nomination to fill the vacant Scalia seat should Trump win the White House.
Why This Deal?
The best deal is one where both sides get something they want and one in which both sides are engaged to ensure it happens. For Cruz to get the SCOTUS slot, he needs Trump to win the general, and to do that Trump will need to get the support of the Cruzers, who might otherwise be content to sit in that wheel-less wagon. That could mean luring them with some policy shifts to the right. This deal also erases the dilemma pundits like to point out: that large numbers of their supporters will never vote for the other.
In some ways, it’s a better deal for Cruz. Trump will have eight years as president, but SCOTUS is for life. It also puts Cruz in a superior position, able to overrule the executive and legislative branches.
Even Cruz’s detractors recognize that he has a brilliant legal mind. Cruz has said time and again that he wants to defend the Constitution, so unleash him on states’ rights, gun rights, abortion — any number of issues. (Cruz supporters, are you starting to see the potential here?)
Why Not Hold Out?
Cruz supporters may be thinking, “But what if we can stop Trump?” Trumpsters might be thinking, “What if we can win out?” Many, many deals have been lost grasping at “if.” Just ask habitual gamblers. It is always better to make the deal when you know your relative leverage positions than at some point in the future when you don’t.
Any deal is a gamble, but the entire purpose of making a deal is to remove uncertainty. While it means giving up the presidency for Cruz, it means the certainty of a lifetime appointment. Trump has the certainty of a win — at least in the primary. History does not favor Cruz’s current strategy: in seven of the last 10 brokered conventions, neither of the top two candidates emerged as the eventual nominee. A 30 percent chance of winning? Make the deal. Pick Door No. 2.
Aside from unifying Trump and Cruz, the effects of the deal will ripple down ballot. It means hanging on to the Senate is more important than ever. It means keeping pressure on squishy Republicans to continue to deny Obama his confirmation hearing. It means energizing House Republicans who will want a role in the new deal to “Make America Great Again.” (Dare we dream of balanced budgets?)
And all this unity will be incredibly necessary. If you thought the primary was ugly, just wait until you dangle both a Trump presidency and a Cruz on the Supreme Court in front of Democrats. Billionaire progressives will use fleets of dump trucks to deliver cash to Hillary. Especially given that there will be one or two more retirements beyond Scalia. Just imagine conservatives on the Supreme Court with a 6–3 or even 7–2 majority.
Politics and society are not a speedboat; they are the Queen Mary. You don’t turn a ship that size on a dime. We have been listing to the left with Obama at the wheel; turning it back to starboard is going to take all hands on deck. America was not ready for a Cruz conservative. But if Republicans can band together, eight years from now America will be.
Besides, to get some of the issues through that both Trump and Cruz say they want will take a big personality, and that is definitely Donald Trump. And that’s OK. Because we know Cruz will have his back.