Way back in September, when we were still young and naive in our belief that conservatives would overcome the odds and rally around The One sooner rather than later, I attended an anti-Iran nuclear deal rally on Capitol Hill. The event was headlined by Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and featured the kind of anti-establishment, anti-Obama, anti-ridiculously stupid foreign policy speeches that have bolstered the more non-traditional candidates on the current Republican slate.

Walking around, I was amazed at how many people displayed swag from multiple campaigns—weren’t we in the middle of a hotly-contested nomination cycle? Still, rally attendees seemed less worried about who was taking a stand than they were about the possibility that nobody would take a stand at all. Trump and Cruz worked well together in this regard; they connected with the crowd and produced a cohesive message that resonated both on the Hill, and outside Washington.

Looks like the honeymoon is over, though. It was nice while it lasted, but let’s face it—we all saw this one coming.

Since the beginning of this death march toward 2016, Trump and Cruz have been competing for (among other things) the support of the fiercely passionate conservative base. Trump’s standout performance in the early polls prompted an uneasy alliance between the two campaigns—one that Trump was comfortable with, seeing as how he was leading the entire field by approximately five million percentage points. Recently, however, Cruz has managed to punch up into the double digits; the RCP average has him at a comfortable 10.7%, just 13 points shy of Trump’s still-commanding lead.

Yesterday, Trump appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box and hinted at a plan to cut Cruz down to size should he gain any more ground.

From The Hill:

“If he catches on, I guess we’ll have to go to war,” he told host Joe Kernen on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“We’ll see what happens but so far we haven’t,” Trump continued. “He’s been very supportive [and] we have a lot of the same ideas.

“Well, he’s been very nice and supportive of everything I’ve said, more than anybody else.”

Cruz and Trump have typically enjoyed a warm relationship since launching their respective Oval Office bids earlier this year. The pair has expressed mutual admiration over their similar policies on border security and illegal immigration.

“I salute Donald Trump for focusing on the need to address illegal immigration,” Cruz said on July 5.

“I like Donald Trump,” he said. “He is bold, he is brash. He has a colorful way of speaking, and it’s not my way of speaking, but I salute him.”

Both men have also found common ground opposing President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. The two teamed up for a rally criticizing implementation of the controversial pact last September.

As Emily Zanotti points out, we’re heading into the November-to-Super Tuesday “slog,” which means that less people will be paying attention to the still-bloated field of candidates. I’m interested to see how these two men will distinguish themselves in terms of policy. Conservatives at this point need to focus on substance over rhetoric; and though both Trump and Cruz excel at spinning a yarn, it will likely be the true Man with the Plan who takes the day—and the votes—from the other.

If you’ve been paying attention at all this cycle, you know that this is going to be really, really, really fun to watch.

Follow Amy on Twitter @ThatAmyMiller


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