To paraphrase my old pastor: Men’s minds are like one bedroom apartments, women’s are like studios. (Point being that men tend to mentally compartmentalize much more than women). So, with me being 1) a woman, 2) a life long Broncos fan and 3) a Cruz supporter; it’s probably inevitable that I would see parallels between the Cruz campaign and the Broncos 2016 season… and even feel like there were principles demonstrated in that realm of sports that can apply to this much more important contest we are witnessing now.
#1. Underdogs are often looked upon as underdogs primarily because of a general media narrative that overemphasizes and even exaggerates weaknesses while minimizing strengths.
There were 2 general categories of mistaken emphasis with regard to the Broncos that I think parallel some of the narrative downplaying Cruz’s prospects.
A. Diminishing accomplishments by talking up an opponent’s disadvantages. (For example, laundry listing and going on an on about the players out with injury during the first Broncos/Patriots match up while ignoring the fact the Broncos also had several important players also out)
I’ve seen a lot of the discussion about Cruz winning Iowa framed in basically the same way. Winning Iowa was impressive and important.
Period. Full Stop.
What’s more, has there EVER been a candidate who has failed to win either Iowa or New Hampshire who has gone on to win the nomination? Yet, the important fact that Cruz won of the first 2 crucial, hotly contested nominating contests (while Rubio has won nothing) has been virtually lost in the chatter about how he won because Iowa has a lot of evangelicals, the map gets more difficult later, etc.
It’s really very similar to the discussion about how the Broncos beat the Patriots with Edelman and Amendola out and didn’t stand a chance of beating them again at full strength. (which, obviously, was proven false)
Which leads into the second line of diminishment:
B. The argument that the Broncos weren’t a balanced team/ Cruz is just a regional candidate.
For months, actually pretty much all season, the Broncos kept being written off (outside of Denver) because of their inconsistency on offense ( it wasn’t even usually acknowledged that the offense was inconsistent. Games where the Broncos scored nearly 3o points or wracked up 400-500 yards total offense were simply overlooked or ignored) and before the final 2 games, the fashionable narrative seemed to involve cherry picking stats to argue that the Broncos opponents both had just about as good a defense.
While this narrative was not without *some truth* (the offense did struggle at times and the team was often carried by the defense) the conclusions drawn (like arguing the Broncos were a weak team who would most likely be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs) were off base for several reasons which also can be applied to the regional candidate arguments regarding Ted Cruz.
a) The weaknesses were overstated: The Broncos offense, while inconsistent, was able to come up big and come through in the clutch to win some crucial games.
Likewise, I think it’s very likely, that later in the contest with the fate of our country on the line and fewer states with large self described “evangelical” and “very conservative” voting blocks, I think it’s very plausible that Ted Cruz (and by that time, perhaps a much larger coalition that is supporting him) will find a way to perform well enough with “somewhat conservative” voters to win the states that are needed.
b) Other less obvious strengths were overlooked. Outside of Denver it didn’t even seem to be noticed that the special teams unit played pretty much lights out for the entire post season.
Likewise, Cruz has many strengths that seem to be forgotten in the rush to brand him as a regional candidate. He has a passion for the Constitution that many (including conservatarians, who are a different demographic from evangelicals and not just in the South) he is able to organize quickly and think methodically and strategically. He is a much better debater than either Huckabee or Santorum, and he has much greater across the board appeal.
He also is extremely popular with voters who are looking for a fighter/ someone willing to take on the establishment. And that is a very large voting block as well.
So, while Cruz does appeal to evangelicals and he is at this point employing a “Southern Strategy” it doesn’t follow that that is all of which he is capable.
c) The obvious strengths were underestimated. You would think that when the Broncos secured the #1 seed in the AFC, after having played one of the toughest schedules, and having the #1 ranked defense in the league that it would be obvious that the defense was pretty darn good. I can only imagine that because the Broncos injuries were rarely noted, that the couple of losses that occurred while the team was especially banged up were treated as somehow representative or proof that the defense wasn’t really that good.
Likewise with Cruz, some are acting as though South Carolina (where Trump consistently led in polls for several months and Rubio had the endorsement of Nicki Haley, Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy) and Nevada (which should probably be looked upon as a home state for Trump and was billed as Rubio’s “firewall”) prove he doesn’t really have Southern strength or strength with evangelicals.
I think we are going to discover on Super Tuesday that Cruz’s strength is very real.
The last 3 points I’m just going to make quickly as this diary is getting long.
#2. Underdogs are often the competitor who has had the more challenging road and is actually more prepared. Cruz has essentially run against the main stream media, and will be better prepared for a general election climate.
#3. Being dismissed and having their back up against the wall often brings out the best in a competitor.
Looking at the situation with Cruz right now, coming off a rough patch and approaching a huge opportunity, I am irresistibly reminded of the Broncos coming off back to back losses to the Raiders and Steelers,
With the number 1 seed looking possibly out of reach, and the possibility of actually missing the playoffs – the Broncos dug down and played increasingly inspired football. I have hopes Cruz will also find a way to be even a better candidate (and pull off the political equivalent of multiple strip sacks) And, given his deep investment in states that vote on March 1st, I like his chances!
#4. The underdog role is attractive.
Yes, being the frontrunner is attractive too. But I wouldn’t underestimate the appeal of the scrappy competitor who perseveres against the odds. (particularly when that competitor is Ted Cruz, who has certainly come from way behind before)
#5. Trump, as the frontrunner, has to defend his mantle against all comers.
Much has (rightfully) been said about the disadvantages of still having so many candidates still in the race, but little has been said of the advantages of a still broad field. If both Rubio and Kasich stay in the race through March 15, then Trump will have to defend Florida and Ohio while Cruz will be free to concentrate on North Carolina and Missouri.