Having started this election cycle pulling for Ted Cruz, it behooves me to say that it is now passed time to pull the plug on the Cruz campaign. This will sound like heresy to my conservative friends but the reasons are simple, practical, and compelling. The opportunity to break the power of the GOP status quo which has frustrated the base of the party will likely be lost if we don’t. This is a “big picture” issue. Reformation of the party power structure is of paramount importance. Continuing to fight for a lost cause serves no good purpose. Redirecting efforts into influencing the realistic nominee does.
- Cruz realistically cannot win 82% of the remaining delegates needed to become the nominee.
- Cruz likely cannot win the nomination in a contested convention.
- Cruz likely cannot win the states that Romney lost and would lose to Hillary if he were the nominee.
Reason #1 alone and all that surrounds it should be reason enough to give up on Cruz. Let me explain.
With both John Kasich and Donald Trump in the race it will not be possible for Cruz to win 82% of the remaining delegates he needs to reach the 1,237 mark. Even if Kasich were to suspend his campaign, Cruz cannot realistically reach that mark. If he pulls off a win in Wisconsin on Tuesday all that will achieve is prolonging the agony since he’ll split the votes nearly evenly with Trump. After that there are a string of Trump-friendly states coming up, including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and California. If Donald Trump and John Kasich combined can’t win 19% of the remaining delegates going forward it would indeed be an unprecedented and monumental collapse. Ted Cruz cannot win the nomination before the convention. All we are waiting for is that moment when he becomes mathematically eliminated, as Kasich already is.
Contested Convention Catastrophe
Donald Trump has a realistic path to the nomination. At this time the hope of all hopes for the Cruz camp is that both he and Kasich combined can prevent Trump from reaching the 1,237 delegate count that he needs in order to win the nomination before the convention. The thought is that if it becomes a choice between the two top candidates the delegates will “dump Trump” and “choose Cruz”. However, there is no guarantee that will happen. Republican establishment types, including Karl Rove this week, have been making noises about getting a “fresh face” if neither Trump nor Cruz wins the nomination outright. Names like Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and Rick Perry have been floated. The point is that Ted Cruz is HATED by the establishment every bit as much as (if not more than) they hate Donald Trump. Rush Limbaugh has devoted a lot of airtime to that topic this week – and he clearly prefers Cruz (though he has not endorsed anyone) as the most conservative candidate in the race! Michelle Malkin is also no fan of Trump’s but is even less a fan of such talk as Rove’s.
Ann Coulter supports Trump but has the same fear that both Trump and Cruz will be booted out if one of them does not meet the delegate threshold beforehand. Meanwhile, John Kasich holds out the dream that he will be the choice of the establishment and become the nominee. He views himself as doing their bidding by continuing his hopeless campaign in order to prevent Trump from getting the nomination. He will then argue that he is a successful governor and can beat Hillary in the fall.
Trump will have a significant delegate lead going into the convention. If he doesn’t reach 1,237 he will likely be reasonably close to it and several hundred delegates ahead of Cruz. That brings to the fore the issue of selecting delegates. Already we are seeing “delegate games” being played as the GOP establishment powers and the Cruz campaign each try to stack the state delegates where they can (it happened in Tennessee yesterday, a state that Trump won handily). The efforts on behalf of Cruz are to appoint or finagle his people onto the floor as Trump delegates. Then, after the first round of voting, they will abandon Trump to vote for him. Efforts by the GOPe are to put in anti-Trump delegates so that they will defect after the first vote and then vote for whomever the party elite so desire. That person will not likely be Ted Cruz.
Cruz is a conservative ideologue who will bring real change and reform to Washington D. C. and to the Republican party. That makes him the enemy of the GOPe. If the true Trump delegates remain loyal to him and the Cruz-bot delegates defect that will leave a division which probably will not be enough for Cruz to win. That is where those delegates loyal to the GOPe become a factor. If they are not swayed to either side then a third round of voting would take place and all bets are off as to who the nominee might be.
A couple of months ago the GOPe was thought to prefer Trump over Cruz, viewing him as a man with whom they could “make deals”. Cruz was viewed as too ideological and inflexible. Indeed, the efforts of the GOPe, Kasich, and Cruz all overlap in the singular purpose of defeating Trump. But that is where the overlap ends. The GOPe would clearly be happiest with Kasich of the remaining three candidates. So Kasich’s delusions of becoming the nominee are not without some merit though they may be without the weight of the delegate count. But they could, in the end, side with Trump. Newt Gingrich has repeatedly said that the nominee will be either Trump or Cruz lest there be a revolt within the party. He’s right about the revolt, but that doesn’t guarantee that either man gets the nomination. The GOPe’s powers are at work against them to be sure. Whether they ultimately go with Trump or with another candidate, it is highly unlikely that Cruz would be the choice. The fear of a revolt in the party might cause them to side with the more “malleable” Trump in the end. Dick Morris assures us that as long as Rule 40b remains in effect then only Trump or Cruz will be options for the nomination. But he acknowledges that there are those trying to overturn that rule. It was only adopted in 2012 so it has no long-standing history to support it.
A contested convention will do no good for the Republican party. It will only drag out the process and continue to cause hurt feelings for both Trump and Cruz supporters. This needs to be brought to an end and the only reasonable end at this point is one where Donald Trump becomes the nominee. He’s leading. He’ll continue to lead. Cruz is all but officially mathematically eliminated. Let there be peace in the party and let the healing begin. The bigger picture is defeating Hillary Clinton in the fall. A hurt and divided party cannot likely do that.
Mitt Romney lost in 2012. Ted Cruz thinks that if he can energize the evangelical votes that Romney did not get then he could win the election. Perhaps he could were he the nominee. The Trump plan is to win more states by drawing in the white vote, the blue-collar vote, the so-called “Reagan Democrats”, and peeling a little (it is hoped) off the minority votes with the lure of jobs in a revitalized economy. Ann Coulter has sketched out several paths to victory for Trump that are all realistic. I won’t reproduce her column here but I will give you just one salient quote:
If Trump wins only the same states as Romney, but adds Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois — where Romney’s white vote was below his national average — Trump wins with 280 electoral votes. (Romney wasn’t an ideal candidate in the industrial Midwest.)
Trump is already drawing the groups to him that were mentioned above. The minority vote remains the only question and that is not necessary to win, as Coulter points out. The enthusiasm that the new Trump voters have brought to the process will be lost if he is not the nominee. There will be more of a sense of deflation, of being “robbed”, and of cynicism toward politics if Trump leads in the nomination process but does not get the nomination. Many of these people who are hopeful for the first time in a long time will settle back into their previous voting patterns (or lack thereof). That is less so of the Cruz supporters who, by and large, are going to be there anyway. The excitement around Cruz seems largely to come from already politically involved conservatives who see one of their own as finally being politically viable. These are people who are much more likely to show up and pull the lever for Trump if for no other reason than to keep Hillary out of the White House.
The Trump demographic is more reflective of the general election than are the Republican primary states that Cruz has won. Cruz does best when only Republicans are permitted to vote (no crossover Democrats or Independent voters allowed). He is also strong with highly conservative groups like the Mormons in Utah and the Christians in Iowa. But he has failed to win any conservative Southern state except for his home state of Texas. These were supposed to be his “sure thing” going into the primaries. One of the arguments against having closed, Republican-only state primaries is that the candidates chosen are not as viable in the General Election where winning over Independents and Democrats becomes critical. All this bodes better for Trump in the fall match-up.
In the end, we can hold on to the “anything can happen” hope should Cruz become the nominee. His strategy of energizing evangelicals might work, even though half of them voted for Trump instead of him. Maybe enough of the new Trump voters would stick around to help shape a favorable outcome. It is all very uncertain at this point. What seems far more certain is that Trump continues to win, his supporters continue to be enthused, and he continues to woo non-Republican voters to his side. His seems to be the best path to victory going into the General Election.