Some knowledge about social dynamics from pick up artists applies to politics. Candidates aim to gain a social status advantage over their rivals. It's not the only factor in how people vote, but it's a big one.
“There are two big differences between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz that explain why I think Cruz will prevail,” Bozell says.
“First, in every other clash between a competing candidate and Trump it was that candidate picking a fight with Trump. In this case it was Trump picking a fight with Cruz out of necessity,” Bozell notes.
“Second, in this case it is Trump who sounds angry. Cruz is responding with humor,” he adds.
“The more this plays itself out, the more it is being established that Cruz is the real conservative and Donald Trump is a charlatan,” Bozell concludes on the Trump-Cruz matchup.
This analysis has some good points. It's a good start. But real social dynamics style ideas can add more. I'll talk about reactivity and the law of least effort.
Trump is the more reactive one. He's reacting to Cruz more than Cruz reacts to Trump. This is contrary to Trump's previous fights where he was the less reactive one.
The article says Cruz is in a good spot because Trump picked the fight with Cruz. That's less accurate. You can pick a fight with someone and get them to react more than you. If you poke them a little and they have a big reaction, now they look bad.
Initiating means you are reacting to them. But it doesn't mean that you react more to them overall. Whoever picks a fight is more often the more reactive person, but not always.
Another way to look at reactivity is: it's about who is living their own life with their own strong frame, and who is leaving their world to go visit the other person and give them attention on their terms. Going to pick a fight with someone is a disadvantage here. But it's not game over. If an attacked person gets defensive, that shows a weak frame and that they are reacting to the attacks, so then they can lose this social context.
Cruz has dealt with Trumps attacks with poise. He hasn't gotten overly defensive. He hasn't started accepting Trump's premises or framing of the issues. And he hasn't started reacting a lot. Cruz does react, but less than Trump is reacting to Cruz. Cruz is the more calm and chill person in their squabble.
Trump comes off as more interested in talking about Cruz, and interacting with Cruz, than vice versa. Trump is seeking out Cruz and reacting to what Cruz does (e.g. go up in the polls) more than vice versa.
Note that the media in general, which has attacked Trump so much, has been the more reactive and higher effort party there. That's helped Trump.
The law of least effort also provides some insight. In short, whoever appears to put less effort into an interaction has higher social status.
Trump is appearing to put more effort into going after Cruz than the effort Cruz is putting into doing anything about Trump. So Cruz looks better here.
Cruz has highlighted this pretty clearly. He's said some stuff about he's on Trump's mind and Trump is tweeting so much about him.