With two weeks and a couple of days before Iowa voters get together in their cults, er, caucus meetings, two sets of contests are underway. Sen. Ted Cruz is battling Donald Trump like the red and blue "Rock Em Sock Em Robots
" of old.
This is where I have trademarked an analogy: A trio of Ali-Frazier fights from the 1970s.
The greatest three battles in boxing history began with a Frazier win and ended in a near-death experience for both men in Manila, which Ali won. Both men were essentially broken, though Ali came back to beat George Foreman with rope-a-dope in the "Rumble in the Jungle," more theater than boxing match.
Only Cruz or Trump can win their long delayed face-off, and it isn't going to be pretty. Both landed blows in Thursday night's debate, but Trump won with a killer comeback on "New York values." Cruz put the birther nonsense down for the count, except for the true believers.
There are a thousand law professors with opinions on this by the way. I am among them. Two former Solicitors General of the United States, Republican Paul Clement and Democrat Neal Katyal have written the definitive piece
on Cruz's presidential eligibility.
It isn't enough for the birthers though, so I called my law partner yesterday, former U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Larson, now with me at Larson O'Brien LLP, and just back from a Supreme Court appearance last month. Larson, formerly the head of organized-crime prosecutions in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles before being appointed to the bench by George W. Bush and then entering private practice, is a serious, serious guy, the guy you call when the trouble is real and deep and the law complex.
Larson was, per usual, direct and to the point: Cruz doesn't have any trouble. It isn't a real controversy. It isn't a deep issue. Any case brought by troublemakers against Cruz would be dismissed quickly under the "political question" doctrine, if anyone even had the legal "standing" to bring it.
Cruz used his reputation to kill the issue Thursday night, but try finding -- not a law professor -- but any former federal judge still practicing with a reputation to uphold who will disagree with Judge Larson. You won't. Case closed, and Cruz won that round.
But the Texas senator lost two big rounds -- suffered two knockdowns. Trump leveled him on "New York values," and Sen. Marco Rubio staggered him in the last round with a flurry of hard hits. End of analogy. Not a split decision in either fight, but close in both.
Rubio also got the best of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, but barely. They have a few more dates as well before the winner of their bracket faces the winner of the Cruz-Trump campaign. Jeb Bush and John Kasich aren't out of it, but they need one of the others in their lane to disqualify themselves.
Dr. Ben Carson looked like he wanted to be the referee. He was. Referees don't win.
So there you have my judge's card. But my prediction? An open convention.
Book your hotels for two weeks in Cleveland. The Cavaliers will have just won it all. The Indians will be in first place. The Browns' new coach, Hue Jackson, will be praising the progress of his new quarterback picked No.2 overall draft-pick (Jared Goff or Paxton Lynch), and the greatest convention in modern political history will unfold on the shores of Lake Erie. There is a God in heaven, and He is just.