Ted Cruz Wanted to Talk Policy at the Iran Rally. Donald Trump Was There to Campaign.

The “romance” between the two candidates could be jeopardized by Trump himself.

Ted Cruz and Donald Trump shake hands at Wednesday's Stop Iran Rally on the West Lawn of the Capitol.
Bloomberg AFP/Getty
Nora Kelly and Clare Foran
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Nora Kelly Clare Foran
Sept. 9, 2015, 3:13 p.m.

Don­ald Trump and Ted Cruz showed up on Cap­it­ol Hill for the Stop Ir­an Rally on Wed­nes­day, os­tens­ibly united in their aim of ma­lign­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s nuc­le­ar deal.

But once they ac­tu­ally star­ted speak­ing, Cruz soun­ded like the sen­at­or he is, while Trump soun­ded un­mis­tak­ably like a pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate.

Cruz railed against the Ir­an nuc­le­ar deal in his roughly 12-minute re­marks, stick­ing largely to policy, and only briefly weigh­ing in on the pres­id­en­tial race. Trump, on the oth­er hand, was there only be­cause of the race.

“We will have so much win­ning if I get elec­ted that you may get bored with win­ning,” Trump said at the end of his ad­dress, be­fore re­think­ing his pess­im­ist­ic phras­ing. “You will nev­er get bored with win­ning. We nev­er get bored. We are go­ing to turn this coun­try around.”

Only after present­ing a lit­any of de­tailed ar­gu­ments against the ac­cord brokered by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion did Cruz get around to men­tion­ing the 2016 race. “There will come a pres­id­ent who is not named Barack Obama,” he said to cheers, though he did not go so far as to poin­tedly say that the next pres­id­ent may, in fact, be Cruz him­self.

Wed­nes­day’s rally marks the first time the two pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates have jointly head­lined such a high-pro­file event. The side-by-side gave Cruz an op­por­tun­ity to be­ne­fit from the me­dia spot­light that fol­lows Trump every­where. But Cruz also risked hav­ing his voice drowned out by Trump’s pres­ence, by now no­tori­ous for suck­ing up most of the oxy­gen in nearly any room.

Trump didn’t at­tempt to wade in­to in-the-weeds ar­gu­ments against the agree­ment, say­ing at the top of his five-minute ad­dress that “Ted and every­one else have gone through all of the de­tails.”

In­stead, he used the West Lawn pul­pit to trum­pet how he’ll get the four Amer­ic­an host­ages in Ir­an out of im­pris­on­ment (“they will be back be­fore I ever take of­fice be­cause [Ir­an knows] that’s what has to hap­pen”); praise his own deal mak­ing (a fre­quent bit of Trump self-ag­grand­ize­ment since the agree­ment’s an­nounce­ment); and cri­ti­cize the U.S. of­fi­cials who worked on the deal (“we are led by very, very stu­pid people”).

Cruz has worked hard so far to draw subtle dis­tinc­tions between him­self and Trump, all the while prais­ing the real es­tate mogul in the hopes that it may en­dear him with Trump’s loy­al sup­port­ers.

Cruz’s most pas­sion­ate re­marks on the race, which ar­rived at the tail end of the speech, offered up one area of po­ten­tial con­trast between him and Trump, who’s sug­ges­ted he wouldn’t im­me­di­ately scrap the deal as pres­id­ent. “Any com­mand­er-in-chief worthy of de­fend­ing this na­tion should be pre­pared to stand up … and rip to shreds this cata­stroph­ic deal,” Cruz called out.

To some ex­tent, Cruz’s strategy has paid off. Trump has been quick to heap ap­prov­al on Cruz, and has not dir­ec­ted the kind of vit­ri­ol to­wards the Texas sen­at­or that he has lobbed in abund­ance at Jeb Bush.  

“Well, it is a little bit of a ro­mance. I like him. He likes me,” Trump said in an in­ter­view with CNN’s Dana Bash after the rally when asked about his re­la­tion­ship with Cruz. “He’s backed me 100 per­cent, when I came about il­leg­al im­mig­ra­tion, he was the one per­son that really—and there were a couple of oth­ers, of the can­did­ates—but Ted Cruz was out there and he really backed me very strongly, as you know as well as any­body else. And I al­ways re­spec­ted that. I thought that was very nice.”

In in­ter­views with Na­tion­al Journ­al ahead of the rally, two of its or­gan­izers cred­ited Trump for boost­ing its pro­file. Jenny Beth Mar­tin, cofounder of the Tea Party Pat­ri­ots, said Tues­day that she ex­pec­ted Trump’s ap­pear­ance, along with that of Cruz, would bring more at­ten­tion to the deal and per­haps en­cour­age more de­tail about the agree­ment to come out.

But while Cruz stands to be­ne­fit from Trump’s spot­light, he may also end up over­shad­owed by it.

Dur­ing his ad­dress, Trump al­most made it seem like Cruz, who’d in­vited him to the rally, was there to in­tro­duce him. After he strode out to the lectern to R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” he told the crowd how he’d got­ten to be on the stage.  

“I was called by Sen­at­or Cruz a few days ago, and he said, ‘Do you think we can get a really good crowd out here to protest this in­com­pet­ent deal?’” he said, mar­veling at the audi­ence in front of him and im­ply­ing that he’d brought them there.

And as Cruz works to build mo­mentum for his cam­paign, he is no stranger to the dif­fi­culty of at­tempt­ing to stand out in a crowded Re­pub­lic­an field.

On Tues­day, Cruz was at a rally in sup­port of Kim Dav­is, the Ken­tucky county clerk who was jailed after re­fus­ing to grant mar­riage li­censes to same-sex couples. At that event, however, Mike Hucka­bee was the pres­id­en­tial con­tender who made it onto the stage and in­to many of the widely cir­cu­lated pho­tos with Dav­is, not Cruz. A Hucka­bee aide went so far as to phys­ic­ally strong-arm Cruz out of the spot­light.

At times dur­ing the anti-Ir­an deal rally, it ap­peared that Cruz might have been over­shad­owed once again.

“I’m go­ing to get rushed off stage be­cause I’ve got a sen­at­or be­hind me, and then I’ve got Mr. Trump be­hind me,” Mi­chael Pre­gent, the dir­ect­or of Vet­er­ans Against the Ir­an Deal, said dur­ing his turn at the po­di­um, fail­ing to men­tion Cruz by name.

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