One last con: President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump skipped out on their New Year’s gala at Mar-a-Lago, where fans with too much money paid a thousand or so bucks singly because the Trumps were advertised to attend. But suddenly, the first scammers bailed and returned to the White House, leaving family members and other second fiddles to diddle those willing to be defrauded by the right-wing star-hucksters.

While the Trumps are world champion charlatans, there’s no shortage of Bunco artists in Washington. Only too happy to join the Trumpster in his elaborate last-minute swindle to hold on to office by hook or crook was Ted Cruz. In a biopic, there’s no obvious actor who would be cast as Trump. But Cruz would definitely be played by Snidely Whiplash of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame. Never mind that Whiplash is a star of animation. He IS Ted Cruz.

It’s not that Sen. Cruz actually cares whether President Trump is successful. If The Donald falters, Cruz would like to lay claim to his 74 million voters. And Donald Trump has four years to falter.

Could he have badly blundered with his hour-long intimidation call threatening Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger? He threatened Raffensperger with “criminal” prosecution unless he suddenly were to “find” nearly 12,000 Trump votes in Georgia, which would reverse the state’s election.

By the way, Brad Raffensperger, the loyal Republican, cast his ballot for Trump before he decided to steadfastly follow all the rules in counting the votes. Including now, when he politely turned down the president and his henchpersons. The question, among others, is how could they not know the call was being recorded? And Trump’s four years out of office and being subject to criminal action hasn’t even begun.

Four years is a long enough time for all the memories of the Trump years to evaporate: the coronavirus, the racism, the misogyny, the cruel xenophobia, the facile demagoguery. This is to say nothing of the fact that President Joe Biden will have time to create his own messes.

What the Trumpster base has not forgotten is why the millions favored Trump in the first place: the unfairness of the elite and their so-called experts (they lump all the real experts in with the phonies). They despised the intellectuals, many of whom talked a good game but little else, and felt they had suffered from affirmative action and foreign competition. They also believed that their old-fashioned cultural and religious beliefs were under attack.

And along came Donald Trump. He had already shown he has the grift gift. He had been born into wealth but also inherited a ruthlessness to do whatever it took to wriggle out of his ineptitude and achieve huge wealth in the process.

An old Southern expression is that The Donald is able to fall in a bucket of spit and come out smelling like a rose. Well, that’s pretty close.

He has an instinctual ability for public relations. He will find some way to be in the spotlight. No matter how Joe Biden will try, Donald Trump will parlay the claim that he was cheated out of re-election into a justification to be favored next time around. He might succeed. Ted Cruz and the others can only hope he might not.

The only ultimate fight in the GOP will be between one of them and a “Never Trumper” like Mitt Romney. Romney pretends his motives are pure, but that’s just his con. Call him Grift Romney, running his own sting versus a Democrat. Both will still be running against Donald Trump, still the center of attention, which is all he ever wanted.

Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN; his opinions are his own.

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