With just hours to go before the polls close in the critical state of Indiana, Texas Senator Ted Cruz delivered an extended monologue on live TV calling rival GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump a "pathological liar" and a "narcissist." It's an odd and telling display from someone who spent most of last year cozying up to Trump.
Cruz delivers the sort of blunt, personal criticism that you don't often see on the campaign trail, and he frames it as a moment of total honesty.
"I'm going to do something I haven't done for the entire campaign…I'm going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump," Cruz says as he winds up.
Here's the video:
It's a moment of candor that tells us as much about Cruz as it does about Trump.
For one thing, it shows us Cruz's statement of mind: He seems frustrated, angry, and upset—and it doesn't look like he's faking it. With his dramatic pauses and repetitive delivery, Cruz often comes across as unnatural and slightly fake. You can still see some of that here, but more than almost any other clip I've seen from Cruz over the course of the campaign, it seems natural, and genuinely felt. Cruz seems to really mean what he's saying.
That's understandable, given the position he's in today. Indiana is widely viewed as Cruz's last stand. It's a must-win for his campaign, and if he loses tonight, it's extremely doubtful that he'll be able to keep Trump from winning the nomination.
Which means there is a strategic element at play here too. Cruz would rather the media focus on his rant than on his long-odds of winning, or on Trump's latest conspiracy-theory-peddling about Cruz's dad and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Even when he's being genuine, Cruz, the race's most rigorous tactician, is always acting in the interests of his campaign.
And that brings us to the real problem: Cruz's statement is an open admission that he's been misleading voters throughout the campaign.
It's not just that he's been holding back. It's that, presuming today's statement really does represent what he believes, his previous statements cannot be true.
Cruz ran as friendly to Trump throughout most of last year, secretly meeting with the businessman early in the race, coordinating with him on a foreign policy announcement, and frequently paying him compliments. In a December tweet, he rejected the idea of a face-off between himself and Trump because Trump is "terrific."
Indeed, he pitched his friendliness to Trump as a campaign asset: "A lot of the other candidates have gone out of their way to smack [Trump] with a two-by-four, said some really nasty, vicious things," Cruz said, according to the BBC. "I've sung his praises. He's bold, he's brash, and I think the support he's gaining right now in the polls is because people are looking for someone willing to stand up to Washington."
The message Cruz wants to send with today's rant is something to the effect of: Wow! Finally! Cruz is saying what he really thinks! Better late than never, I suppose. But the message he's actually sending is that while running for president over the last year, he's been doing something else.