Donald Trump might actually be in trouble now: How he tried to smear Ted Cruz this weekend—and got booed!

When GOP frontrunner tried to put space between himself and his main rival, something interesting happened

By Heather Digby Parton
Published January 19, 2016 7:02PM (EST)
Ted Cruz and Donald Trump (AP/J. Scott Applewhite/Reuters/Rick Wilking)
Ted Cruz and Donald Trump (AP/J. Scott Applewhite/Reuters/Rick Wilking)

On the long Martin Luther King Day holiday weekend before the first caucuses are held, even a pampered diva candidate like The Donald has to step up his game. Just calling into the morning shows from his spa tub and one big rally a day isn't going to cut it any more.Even his always active twitter account is getting a workout.

One gets the sense he didn't think this would be necessary. His hairdo seems a little rushed these days. He's looking a bit pale underneath the bronzer. But ever since the debate last week he's been like a rabid Energizer Bunny chasing Ted Cruz all over the media. On Saturday morning, Trump rolled up his french cuffs and got down to work by firing off a barrage of angry tweets about Cruz's unfitness for the presidency:

That was followed by a twitter tirade posted over the next few hours ranting about Cruz's citizenship, his finances and his hypocrisy, getting progressively more angry and unhinged until it culminated in this epic tweet at 11:30 that morning:

He had worked up such a head of steam that when he went to South Carolina that afternoon he appeared before the Tea Party convention and carried on with his rant in front of a crowd that had received Cruz enthusiastically earlier in the day. And they booed him. He petulantly retorted,

"Say whatever you want, it's okay, he didn't report his bank loans. He's got bank loans from Goldman Sachs, he's got bank loans from Citibank, folks, and then he acts like Robin Hood? You know, say whatever you want, but it doesn't work that way."

That may have been the first time Trump had ever been booed by a friendly crowd. He didn't like it.

According to news reports, the boos got louder. One of the people interviewed after the rally made a perceptive observation one would have thought the legions of pundits would have made long before:

"He has kicked political correctness to the curb — until Ted said something about New Yorkers — and then suddenly Mr. Trump became very sensitive."

It does seem a bit dissonant, doesn't it? But Trump is the last person on earth to worry about such an inconsistency. Undeterred by his erstwhile fans' booing, he took to the Sunday shows and attacked Cruz with renewed vigor. He appeared on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" and ripped into his good friend Ted without restraint:

Look, the truth is that he’s a nasty guy, he was so nice to me, I mean, I knew it, I was watching, I kept saying, “Come on, Ted, Let’s go, Ted,” but he’s a nasty guy, nobody likes him, nobody in Congress likes him, nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him, a very, um, he’s got an edge that’s not good, you can’t make deals with people like that. And it’s not a good thing, it’s not a good thing for the country. Very nasty guy.

It happens to be true that Cruz is disliked by everyone in Washington. That also happens to be what the right wingers like most about him. It's also true that this criticism coming from the likes of Donald Trump, who is among the most malevolent, odious, narcissistic personalities to ever run for higher office, it is more than a little bit lacking in self-awareness.

Trump also seems to be unaware that he is now defending the very Republican establishment he's been calling a bunch of stupid losers for months. He forgot that this is what his supporters like most about him as well. (Of course, the D.C. politicians all seem to be coming around to the notion that he might be their Dear Leader, so perhaps that unpleasantness will soon be behind them.)

On "State of the Union with Jake Tapper," Trump claimed Cruz was unethical and trying to smear him, but then shifted into a more pious mode. When Tapper asked him if he regretted making his notorious remark that he'd never had to ask God for forgiveness, he replied:

"I have a great relationship with God. I have a great relationship with the Evangelicals. In fact, nationwide, I’m up by a lot, I’m leading everybody. But I like to be good. I don’t like to have to ask for forgiveness. And I am good. I don’t do a lot of things that are bad. I try to do nothing that is bad. I live a very different life than probably a lot of people would think. And I have a very great relationship with God and I have a very great relationship with Evangelicals. I think that’s why I’m doing so well with Iowa."

He seems to think God is his pollster.

It was fortuitous that Tapper teed up the question, however, since Trump was going to Liberty University on Monday for a big, beautiful speech before the whole student body. His good pal Jerry Falwell Jr vouched for Trump saying, "In my opinion, Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others, as Jesus taught in the great commandment.”

Highlights of Trump's speech include:

“Two Corinthians 3-17, that's the whole ball game. … Is that the one? Is that the one you like? I think that's the one you like.”

"'The Art of the Deal' is a deep, deep second to the Bible. The Bible is the best. The Bible blows it away.”

“If I'm president, you're going to see ‘Merry Christmas’ in department stores, believe me.”

“If I'm president, you'll say, ‘Please, Mr. President, we're winning too much. I can't stand it. Can't we have a loss?’ And I’ll say, ‘No, we're going to keep winning.’”

It surprised a lot of the pundits to see Trump at Liberty U, but he's been there before. In fact, he's been assiduously courting Falwell since 2012. And believe it or not, this speech was much more polished than the one he gave a few years ago when he said,

“I always say, always have a prenuptial agreement. But I won’t say it here because you people don’t get divorced, right? Nobody gets divorced! OK, so I will not say have a prenuptial agreement to anybody in this room!"

Trump left the ecstatic Liberty kids and headed back up to New Hampshire for a big rally in Concord. Interestingly, after spending all weekend slagging Ted Cruz for being nasty, corrupt and rude, according to CNN's Dana Bash Trump didn't once bring him up at either Monday event. It's impossible to know for sure why he suddenly switched gears. Maybe he was tired and forgot. Or maybe it was the reaction to his from the people who rule right wing America: talk show hosts.

Rush Limbaugh rambled incomprehensibly for a good part of his show yesterday with what appeared to be a complaint that calling Cruz names was a bad strategy while also lamenting the fact that sometimes Republicans don't like other Republicans. Or something.

Mark Levin was so worked up he wrote a highly indignant Facebook post in which he told Trump he'd better get his act together or conservatives were going to be really, really P.O.'d. He wrote,

"Put down your computer keyboard for a few hours, think before you tweet, and collect yourself. You're not politically invincible, regardless of the polls and media."

(Then he leavened his scolding with a hilarious request that Trump confine himself to talking about "real and substantive" issues that matter to the country.)

So, after insulting virtually everyone in America, even POWs, Fox News stars and every other GOP candidate, can it be that Donald Trump insulting Ted Cruz was the straw that broke the camel's back? The same Ted Cruz that is despised by just about everyone who knows him? This election really is one for the books.

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Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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Aol_on Donald Trump Elections 2016 Gop Primary Ted Cruz