George W. Bush
Credit: Eric Draper/Wikimedia Commons

As Donald Trump was declaring victory last night at the Republican Convention, Shane Goldmacher was reporting on a “shadow convention” held in April for former Bush administration officials. The most significant thing that occurred was that several people reported something George W. Bush said.

“I’m worried,” Bush told them, “that I will be the last Republican president.”

While those in attendance weren’t sure whether that was some kind of “gallows humor or blunt realpolitik,” it certainly expresses the feelings of a group of Republicans as they watch their party’s nominee take center stage. As I noted yesterday, John Daniel Davidson says that “Cleveland is the end of the GOP as we know it.”

The Republican Party will nominate Donald Trump as its candidate for president at the national convention here this week, which means the RNC will serve as a kind of ceremonial marker for a rather unusual political purge: a purge in reverse.

The Republican leaders who show up to the convention and climb aboard the Trump train will be purged from whatever comes after the GOP. The ones left standing will be the ones who stayed away—or, like, Sen. Ted Cruz, showed up, but not to endorse Trump.

That brings up what might be the most interesting question going in to tonight’s speeches at the RNC. Ted Cruz has been given a prime spot in tonight’s line-up. But he hasn’t endorsed Donald Trump yet. All eyes will be on whether or not he does so in Cleveland. Regardless of the answer to that question, Cruz definitely has his eye on a longer-game. And he seems to be betting on a Trump loss in November.

On Wednesday, the fiery but fine-tuned Texas senator is set to deliver a prime-time address to a party that rejected his candidacy, at the invitation of a nominee who savaged his family in the most personal way possible, in an attempt to reassert his core values and — in the eyes of many supporters and aides — lay a foundation for a second run in 2020.

Cruz wouldn’t talk specifically about what he plans to say — it’s sure to include a healthy portion of attacks on Hillary Clinton — but he made it clear that his goals extend well beyond getting Trump elected.

“Most wars are not won in a single battle,” said Cruz, who is still paying campaign staff to plan and to create a detailed post-mortem of the 2016 primaries…

“What I’m looking forward to is changing the course this country is on. I don’t know if that happens in this election cycle or not,” he added.

A couple of weeks ago, Eliana Johnson and Tim Alberta reported on what Cruz has been up to since he conceded the primary.

Behind closed doors Cruz has been supervising the vast expansion of his electoral enterprise, integrating the operations of his campaign team — policy, political, financial — in an effort to harness his newfound national following with an eye on 2020.

An anonymous source on the convention floor suggested that a subtext of the fight over the rules committee report on Monday was that the Cruz people joined the rebellion in order to push for closed primaries in 2020 to stop Independents from being able to participate. Obviously Cruz thinks that would improve his chances next time around.

I have long thought that Ted Cruz is the smartest – and most dangerous – potential Republican candidate. It comes as no surprise that he is plotting a power play to feed on the carcass of what’s left of the GOP once Trump is done with it. Are other Republicans doing the same thing behind closed doors? Marco? Jeb? Anyone? Or is Dubya right to wonder whether he’ll be the last Republican president?

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