Yesterday, Ted Cruz fired his communications director, Rick Tyler. He probably needed to. Not because Tyler wasn't good but because, to a certain extent, Cruz's communications operation was becoming an issue and something needed to be done.
Via the Washington Post:
Ted Cruz is not running a dirty campaign, despite what Donald Trump and Marco Rubio would argue. But that idea just cost Cruz's spokesman, Rick Tyler, his job.
First, his opponents are more than willing to make a big deal out of these not-very-big issues because it serves their own political goals to do so. Trump plays them up because he wants people to think that maybe he won Iowa, which he didn't. Carson plays them up because he wants people to think that he's actually a good candidate, which he isn't
Why? That brings us to the second point: The repetition of the accusation that he's playing dirty by his opponents and their supporters and some in the media puts his campaign under much greater scrutiny than his opponents. Cruz is now seen as a dirty campaigner, so he has to meet a higher bar than Trump or Carson. Marco Rubio sent an email to voters in South Carolina telling them to look out for dirty tricks from Cruz -- a way of getting them to consider anything from Cruz skeptically. This is how politics works; campaigns try to frame one another as low-energy or a "chaos candidate" or whatever, and sometimes it sticks (as in the first example there). But this is what Cruz has been saddled with.
Again, Tyler's exit won't solve Cruz's perception problem. It's now baked-in. All he can do is ensure that his relationship with his core base of support holds up -- and that nothing else offering even a whiff of untowardness happens. With opponents willing to transform Kansas into Everest, though, that's going to be nearly impossible.
The real lede is buried in the story, though. The real story is how Marco Rubio is avoiding any overt criticism of Trump and is using Trump's own attack lines against Cruz.
While many conservatives continually bitch about Ted Cruz's efforts to make nice with Donald Trump early on, none of them seem to care about their own Fair Marco's completely ignoring Trump while attacking both Bush and Cruz, who have spent a lot of time attacking Trump since before Iowa. Apparently, Cruz had some unique responsibility to throw himself into a fight with Trump so Rubio could ride it out and pick up the pieces. That, quite honestly, is the only way the critique makes anything approaching sense. What the Rubio fans have been very tolerant of is Rubio picking up the attacks that Trump has thrown at Cruz and repeating them.
For instance, from yesterday:
Ted Cruz has now apologized to Marco Rubio and Ben Carson for fraud and dirty tricks. No wonder he has lost Evangelical support!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2016
Natrually, the Rubio campaign weighs in with "me, too, Boss."
— Sean Sullivan (@WaPoSean) February 22, 2016
Right now, the Rubio campaign is acting as a surrogate for the Trump campaign and it is left to a lefty political writer at the Washington Post to try to set the record straight.