Neocons Prefer Cruz to Trump

...but they'd still rather go with a third choice.


According to the reigning narrative in the political press right now, the Republican establishment would rather see Donald Trump get the GOP's nomination than Ted Cruz. But as Rosie Gray reports, this opinion is not unanimous among the party elites:


Some of the hawkish figures who Ted Cruz recently dismissed as "crazy neo-con invade-every-country-on-earth and send our kids to die in the Middle East"…say they'd consider supporting Cruz anyway if he's the last man between Donald Trump and the Republican presidential nomination….

The neocons' willingness to consider Cruz stands in sharp contrast with a new line of current conventional wisdom in Washington that Cruz, who is the object of particularly intense personal dislike from establishment Republicans, is actually less acceptable to the establishment than Trump. The logic of many of the Republican interventionists: Cruz, according to this argument, doesn't really mean his criticism, or at least might change his mind; Trump, by contrast, has longstanding, if sometimes incoherent, isolationist impulses. And campaigns don't always determine foreign policy, they note: George W. Bush promised a "humble" foreign policy free of nation-building, and look what happened.

There are three reasons why Cruz is attracting some soft support from neoconservatives. To start, it's Cruz's pedigree. With degrees from Harvard and Princeton, some think he can't possibly be serious about some of his more extreme statements. (During his first campaign, he launched a scathing attack on the Council on Foreign Relations as a "pit of vipers," neglecting to note that his wife had been an active member of the group.)…

Cruz also has skillfully kept channels to key neoconservatives open throughout the campaign season. His top foreign policy adviser, Victoria Coates, is a former aide to Donald Rumsfeld and is respected inside the party.

And finally, when compared to Trump's rhetoric about foreign affairs, Cruz is considered the lesser of two evils.

By "some of the hawkish figures," Gray basically means Bill Kristol and Elliott Abrams—not exactly a big group, though it's an influential one. (That's who she quotes, anyway.) I wouldn't read this as a mass migration of neocons into the Cruz camp so much as a sign of how things could play out if this really does turn into a two-man Trump-Cruz race, a scenario that at this point is hardly certain.

But if we do get a long-term Trump-Cruz battle, I suspect that Gray's piece will prove prescient. Cruz has spent a couple of years now trying to steer a middle path between the neocons and the relatively dovish Rand Paul faction. He also famously hopes to win the nomination by nailing down his base and then emerging as everyone else's second choice. It would be pretty funny if both Paul and Kristol wind up backing him against Trump a couple months from now, each figuring for his own reasons that Cruz's foreign policy views are the lesser of two evils.