I do not just observe and write about politics. I got elected to office and prior to that managed and consulted on campaigns. I have read just about every campaign book out there. I have gone to campaign management school. I have interviewed campaign strategists. I have helped shape polling, advertising, opposition research, etc.
What Ted Cruz has just started doing to Donald Trump is a master class campaign performance. It is the model textbook example of when and how to attack.
Cruz, for six months, said nothing but kind words about Donald Trump. Every time Trump even offhandedly suggested something critical of Cruz, Cruz just laughed it off and gave Trump a pass.
For six months, as other candidates attacked Trump, Cruz stood shoulder to shoulder with Trump. It annoyed and pissed off a lot of people, but every poll out there shows it also had the effect of making Cruz the second choice for Trump’s voters and Carson’s voters.
As Carson declined, Cruz began rising further still. He held his fire. He kept laughing off Trump, defending Trump, and blaming the establishment. Cruz never took the bait, never got off message, deflected where he must, and kept building up his ground game while other candidates engaged Trump and spent days going off message squabbling in the press with Trump.
Suddenly Cruz found himself number one in Iowa. He also found himself number one in favorability among Republican voters.
When Donald Trump began attacking Ted Cruz, he was no longer attacking just anybody. Trump suddenly found himself attacking the most popular Republican in the field — a position Trump was holding when former Presidential candidates were attacking him.
When Cruz finally responded, Cruz was responding, not initiating an attack. That plays well in voter psychology. They’re better with a candidate defending himself than starting an attack. More importantly, voters are willing to give the candidate with the highest favorability a pass they will not give others.
This is just a model, textbook attack from Cruz.
There are lots and lots of people who think Cruz cannot win a general election. They should look at his thus far perfect campaign strategy and think again. He has stayed on message, stayed focused, and struck at the perfect time with perfect favorability.
Like him or not, it is impressive — the more so because he is not using a bunch of Washington consultants who get on television as experts to run his campaign and make these plays.