Supporters and advisers of Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas have pointed to GOP nominee Donald Trump’s recent reversal on immigration as evidence that their candidate was right all along.
Cruz battled Trump during the GOP primary, but dropped out of the race on May 3 after a decisive loss in Indiana. During the final stages of his campaign, Cruz accused Trump of being a phony conservative.
Insiders with the Cruz campaign now view Trump’s recent waffling on a deportation force to be vindication of that criticism, with several of them saying Republican voters only have themselves to blame, Politico reports.
“Everything Trump promises comes with an expiration date,” said Amanda Carpenter, a former Cruz communications director. “We knew it during the primary, and now it is apparent he has duped his most loyal supporters on the issue they care about most, immigration.”
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Carpenter added “Don’t say we didn’t warn them.”
Trump gained momentum during the GOP primary by firmly promising to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
On Aug. 23, the business mogul told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he would instead seek deportations for criminal offenders, not law-abiding, undocumented immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for years.
“There could certainly be a softening because we’re not looking to hurt people,” Trump said. “We want people -- we have some great people in this country … We want to follow the laws, you know, we have very strong laws in this country.”
Trump has since canceled a scheduled visit in Colorado for Aug. 25, where he was expected to give a comprehensive outline of his immigration policy. The Trump campaign has said the nominee is still tweaking his plan.
Several conservative operatives have blasted the campaign pivot.
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said Trump not making up his mind on the issue is unforgivable, according to The New York Times.
“Betraying his base and making clear that, a year after he launched his campaign, he still doesn’t know really what he wants to do on immigration, is really the last straw, it seems to me,” Krikorian said.
Rick Tyler, a former communications director for the Cruz campaign, says Trump has become an amnesty candidate.
“If Trump is insistent on reversing himself on amnesty, then he will have fooled his entire base,” Tyler said.
Cruz himself has taken heat from a large portion of the GOP after declining to endorse Trump during the Republican National Convention, telling viewers they should vote their conscience.
While his supporters are hoping he will mount another presidential campaign for 2020, Cruz may have to spend the next two years fighting just to keep his place in the Senate.
Angry Republicans have murmured that the Texas senator could have his seat challenged in the 2018 primary by potential rivals such as Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and former Republican Gov. Rick Perry.
Chris Wilson, a top Cruz adviser, believes the anger against the senator will die down in the face of Trump’s alleged flip flopping on immigration.
“It vindicates the speech, it vindicates what Ted Cruz warned would happen during the course of the campaign,” Wilson said. The adviser added that Trump’s apparent pivot on immigration is “why we said from the very beginning, to win a general election, we need to nominate a conservative.”