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Ted Cruz wants bromance with Donald Trump: here's why

Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are rivals in the Republican nomination race, but they're acting so friendly that their relationship has been called a blossoming "bromance." What's behind the mutual admiration? Political strategy, of course.

Texas senator hopes to pick up Trump supporters if billionaire's campaign collapses, observer says

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, left, and businessman Donald Trump are running against each other for the Republican presidential nomination, but are acting more like friends than rivals on the campaign trail. They will appear together on Wednesday at a rally in Washington to protest the nuclear deal with Iran. (Associated Press)

Donald Trump has been labelled a jackass and germophobe by some of his rivals in the Republican nomination contest, but from Ted Cruz it's been nothing but praise and flattery.

The Texas senator is purposely avoiding bashing the race's front-runner and, to the contrary, going out of his way to get on Trump's good side.

Today in Washington, D.C., the two presidential hopefuls will appear at an anti-Iran deal rally that Cruz helped organize. Trump was the only Republican candidate he personally invited to attend, even though they all oppose the agreement.

The event will help reinforce what some American media reports have termed a "bromance" between Cruz and Trump.

Bending over backwards for Trump

In contrast to some of his fellow candidates, Cruz has either defended some of Trump's controversial comments or turned down the opportunity to knock them.

At the start of Trump's campaign, for example, there was a lot of reaction to Trump's claim that Mexicans crossing the border illegally into the United States are rapists and drug traffickers sent by the government of Mexico. He was widely condemned for what he said.

Cruz, however, when asked on Fox News if Trump should apologize, said he didn't need to say sorry for speaking out against illegal immigration.

Ted Cruz appears to be aligning himself with Donald Trump in hopes that he will falter, with Cruz's campaign picking up his supporters. (Andy Jacobsohn/The Dallas Morning News/Associated Press)

"I like Donald Trump," Cruz said. "I think he's terrific, I think he's brash, I think he speaks the truth."

There was also controversy over Trump's comment that Senator John McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, wasn't a war hero and that he liked people who don't get captured. When Cruz was asked to weigh in, he said the media wanted him to say something bad about Trump, and he wasn't going to comply.

Cruz told National Journal writer Tim Alberta that he has "bent over backwards" to avoid insulting Trump. Cruz didn't say why when pressed for an explanation, but he made clear he will keep cozying up to Trump.

"Many of the Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates have gone out of their way to take a two-by-four to Don­ald Trump," Cruz told Alberta. "I think that's a mis­take."

He has referred to himself as "a big fan" of Trump's, said they're friends and shown he's eager for face time with him and only him out of the field of candidates.

Cruz was the one who invited Trump for a sit-down meeting in July in New York, invited him to join him for a trip to the Texas-Mexico border (Trump went but Cruz missed it because of Senate votes), and now they will be meeting up in D.C. for the Iran rally.

Trump compliments Cruz

"I don't know why I'm meeting him, to be honest, but I do have respect for him," Trump said ahead of the July meeting.

Trump's praise for Cruz hasn't been as effusive as Cruz's for Trump, but he has thrown some compliments Cruz's way.

After the first debate last month, Trump wrote on Twitter that he thought Cruz had "a very good debate, far better than Rand Paul." After Cruz defended him on the immigration issue Trump said he respected Cruz for it. "I like him," he told CNN.

There may be more to this political bromance than just mutual admiration. 

Kyle Kondik, a neutral political observer at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said the dynamic between Trump and Cruz has been evident for some time now, and that it's likely Cruz who is pushing it because of a specific strategy.

"I think it is fair to say that Cruz has tried to stay close to Trump in some ways," he said in an interview. "I think that Cruz is hopeful that Trump will burn out at some point, maybe even before the voting starts, and then some of Trump's support could be transferred to Cruz."

Kondik said Cruz might also be hoping that if Trump withdrew from the race for some reason, that he would endorse Cruz.

Aligning himself with Trump now for that potential outcome later is not without risks, Kondik said. A lot of Cruz's support comes from the Tea Party supporters and far-right conservatives. Trump's appeal goes beyond that base, Kondik said.

Donald Trump has said he likes Ted Cruz and respects him, and Cruz has praised Trump's bold and brash style of speaking. (Mark Lennihan/Associated Press)

"Trump's support comes from a lot of different places in the party, and not all of those people would gravitate to Cruz if he were not around," he said. "If Cruz thinks that he can just inherit Trump's support, I think he would find that that would not be the case."

However, that's the strategy the National Journal suggested in a piece headlined "Ted Cruz is Stalking Donald Trump." Alberta wrote that Cruz's campaign views Trump as the guy who can galvanize the Republican base, but that when push comes to shove, voters will want someone who is more polished and more conservative and will naturally switch over to Cruz.

Trump helps Cruz get attention

They believe Trump will falter and Cruz, as long as he stays in lockstep with Trump, will pick up the front-runner's support.

Cruz himself said that Trump is helping generate headlines for the Republican race, but "at the end of the day" voters "are go­ing to look for a con­sist­ent con­ser­vat­ive, someone who has walked the walk."

Kondik said it's not surprising to see this Trump-Cruz dynamic, particularly when the field of Republican candidates has stretched to 17. The field will be whittled down eventually, and those left standing will be looking for friends and allies.

In the meantime, Cruz will revel in the throngs of TV cameras and supporters that Trump will draw to D.C. for a rally that might not otherwise have generated as much interest.

"I think his being there will help attract a lot more media attention — will attract more people to come out and join us," Cruz told radio host Howie Carr last week.

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