Can Trump paint Cruz as 'the other'?

Donald Trump steps up 'birther' attack on Ted Cruz
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Donald Trump steps up 'birther' attack on Ted Cruz 03:51

Story highlights

  • S.E. Cupp: Donald Trump's efforts to cast doubt on Ted Cruz's eligibility to run for president, as he was born in Canada, won't work
  • She says Trump may not get Cruz's evangelical appeal, but Iowa voters will and won't respond to Trump's "othering" of Cruz

S.E. Cupp is the author of "Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media's Attack on Christianity," co-author of "Why You're Wrong About the Right" and a columnist at the New York Daily News. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)Try again, Donald.

Donald Trump's latest spaghetti strategy is apparently to see whether the suggestion that rival presidential candidate Ted Cruz is a Canadian will stick to the wall.
Despite pretty clear opinion that Cruz is eligible to become president, as he was born to an American citizen while in Canada, Trump has still managed to distract many in the media with this nothing-burger of a story. He's even offering Cruz some helpful advice to clear up the nonquestion.
"You go in seeking the decision of the court without a court case," Trump told Wolf Blitzer. "You go right in. You go before a judge, you do it quickly. Declaratory judgment. It's very good."
Cruz adviser: Citizenship question a 'non-issue'
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Cruz adviser: Citizenship question a 'non-issue' 05:10
While I'm sure it is very good, Cruz is right to laugh this off, as he did with a tweet linking to the infamous "Happy Days" episode when Fonzie "jumps the shark."
Because even though Trump is a master at goading his opponents into the shark-infested waters of his cartoonish imagination -- where suddenly they find themselves debating the merits of "Operation Wetback" or the meaning of "schlonged" -- this line of inquiry isn't likely to have the results he wants.
For one thing, it's been tested before -- by Trump -- and it failed. Trump wasn't the only one who questioned President Barack Obama's citizenship in 2008, but he certainly took it the farthest, insisting Obama produce his birth certificate.
After all the fearmongering about then-candidate Obama's origins, it still didn't scare enough Democrats and moderates or mobilize enough Republicans to give John McCain the win. In Trump parlance, he was a total LOSER in this fight.
If it didn't work against a Democrat, it's an even flimsier strategy against a fellow Republican, in a Republican primary.
For another, Trump still doesn't seem to understand Iowa voters, where he's hoping this "othering" of Cruz will mute his opponent's ascendance. That hasn't worked for him yet.
After Ben Carson surged ahead of Trump in Iowa, Trump took a swipe at his Seventh Day Adventism. "I mean, Seventh-Day Adventist, I don't know about. I just don't know about."
It didn't have the desired effect; there are nearly 50 Seventh Day Adventist churches in Iowa. Voters there have encountered this "kooky" religion of 17 million that Trump just doesn't know about many times before, and they are unafraid. Carson may have since slipped in the polls, but not because Trump was able to scare Iowans away from him.
When Cruz usurped Trump in an Iowa poll, Trump tried to frighten Iowans yet again. He called Cruz a "maniac" and questioned whether his evangelical bona fides were strong since "not a lot of evangelicals come out of Cuba, in all fairness."
Forgetting that there are nearly a million evangelicals in Cuba -- and that Cruz was, as Trump wants us to remember, born in Canada -- it was yet another bizarre attack line that sunk like a rock. Cruz's evangelical roots are strong in Iowa. And he may have a Cuban father, but few think of Cruz as Cuban.
Sadly for the Donald, Ted Cruz is only as Canadian as the dad jeans he wears -- Trump needs to try a different strategy if he wants to topple his latest closest rival.