Indiana has voted and basically decided this race for the GOP nomination and the right to oppose Hillary Clinton in the Fall. it wasn’t pretty as Cruz lost big time in Indiana and especially in areas a true conservative should win- the very red conservative counties south of Indianapolis. In the end, Cruz managed to carry only 6 of 92 counties in the state. In short, Trump swept all 57 delegates forcing Cruz to face reality and suspend his campaign. There had been rumors that this would happen had he lost Indiana and apparently those pundits were correct. His selection of Fiorina as a running mate was a Hail Mary pass that fell about 20 yards short and was intercepted.
Now starts the finger-pointing and laying of blame for this sorry state of affairs. What started off with 17 candidates, 16 of whom were an upgrade over Trump (yes…even Bush), ends with a thud. Unfortunately, this chain of events has basically put into play (1) every swing state swinging towards Clinton, (2) reliably red states like Georgia, Indiana and Arizona swinging towards Clinton, (3) the Senate for sure, (4) the Supreme Court for sure and (5) a weaker House. If I were Mitch McConnell, I’d be telling Grassley to cut the losses and move on Garland in August before Clinton gets a chance to name someone at the outset.
So where does the blame lie?
The Other Candidates
This starts with the erroneous assumption that had this or that person not been in the race, those votes would have gone to Cruz. That’s like saying if Cruz was not in the race, those votes would have gone to Rubio or someone else. Most of the vitriol is centered on Marco Rubio and John Kasich. With Rubio, the accusation was that he should have dropped out before Florida. In a large winner-take-all race, even if 100% of Rubio supporters voted for Cruz (highly unlikely), Cruz would have lost the 99 delegates to Trump. Perhaps a case can be made that Rubio cost Cruz in South Carolina, still relatively early in the primary cycle when the field was still crowded.
With Kasich, this writer does not understand his presence in the race. If Rubio cost Cruz 99 delegates in a state Cruz was not going to win whether Rubio was there or not, Kasich cost Cruz 66 delegates in Ohio where Cruz had a better chance of beating Trump. That huge block of delegates out of Ohio was more damaging to the chances of Ted Cruz than Florida.
The fact is that the Rubio haters are going to hate and use the Gang of Eight justification for that hate. It’s sour grapes because their preferred candidate did not win a particular state despite the lack of proof that Rubio’s presence in a primary was responsible for that preferred candidate’s loss. And all the “your guy sucks and cost us” commentary is pure nonsense.
After the 5-state Northeastern primary, I suspected that inevitability was creeping into the GOP primary electorate that Trump would be the nominee. This would lead some to either just sit it out or pull the lever for Trump. That could have been avoided with Pennsylvania, but there was something else operating here.
Before New York, Cruz pulled out a great victory in Wisconsin. That left a two-week gap before New York voted, a state Trump was expected to win. But, he won convincingly especially in the northern rural, more conservative counties. In the aftermath of New York, perhaps a case can be made about the media pushing the Trump inevitability theme. But more so than New York, I believe the greater than 56% showing in Pennsylvania sealed the deal fro Trump more than any media harping on his inevitability.
The real blame lies in the “conservative media.” Other than a handful of people at Fox News, they were perhaps the biggest Trump boosters in the game. Maybe it was because he readily granted interviews or whatever, but one cannot deny the objective fact that he received an inordinate amount of free air. One cannot deny the subjective fact that except in a few rare instances, they pushed his candidacy and dissed that of other, more qualified nominees.
Further, many of the people conservatives hold in high esteem such as the walking stick Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, etc. were equally guilty of pushing Trump at some point. Some have seen the error of their ways since but once the horse is out of the barn, it became difficult to get him back in. The damage had been done, especially with the low-information voter who relied on these talking head dolts in the first place. If the Right can criticize millenials for getting their news from The Daily Show, then one can criticize ourselves for relying on people like Hannity and Limbaugh.
This writer blames talking heads on the Right for being hoodwinked by the greatest political charlatan in history rather than the alleged mainstream media puffery of Donald Trump.
Whatever remains of the GOP after this election needs to look at the method by which nominees are chosen. After a selection process that has now given us John McCain, Mitt Romney and now this jerk, it is painfully obvious that something is seriously wrong. One of the problems, as this writer sees it, is the greater weight (on a per-voter basis) that Republican voters in blue states (that will never vote Republican in the general election) enjoy. Voters in blue states have a greater say in the nomination process and this is wrong. Giving greater weight to Republican states at the expense of blue states needs to be considered. Although it would not have made a difference this year (except for a handful of states, Trump won his share of red states), it still a consideration.
The Republican primary should be for Republicans. Perhaps a cut off prior to a primary to declare a party and vote in their primary is also worth considering (60-90 days before a primary?). Trump argues that he is bringing new people and former Democrats into the Republican Party. My guess is that except for a core small percentage, that phenomena is fleeting.
And finally, shorten the primary season. Screw Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada who hold a monopoly in February. These are small population states not necessarily representative of the GOP electorate at large.
In the end, some of the blame must be placed at the feet of Ted Cruz. While one understands his early desire not to alienate Trump supporters, Cruz should have seen the handwriting on the wall regarding Trump’s scorched earth campaign. If he thought he was immune to Trump’s attacks, then he was naive.
Further, he failed to accurately gauge the level of anger within the electorate which Trump exploited so well to his advantage right from the day he descended from on high and declared his candidacy. Cruz seemed to lack the passion in tapping into that anger despite acknowledgement of it. And this writer truly believes he does understand it; he just did not articulate it well enough.
Cruz’s strategy of the so-called Southern firewall itself burned down in the SEC primary. Perhaps he placed too heavy an emphasis here early on. While his ground game was victorious at the convention level, one cannot dismiss the fact that the most consistently conservative candidate lost in the most consistently conservative region of the country. For this, Cruz over-estimated his standing with evangelical supporters. When the final book is written on this campaign, hopefully one will examine why evangelicals did not support him to the degree one would think.
And I think it comes down to the “smarmy factor.” A few months ago, I wrote an article about this describing Cruz not as smarmy, but as too “lawyerly.” He parsed his words to allow himself an “out” in the future if those words came back to haunt him.