If Cruz loses Indiana, and it seems polls have indicated as much, Ted Cruz will not be the Republican nominee. I state that not as a probability, but a certainty – Cruz’ remaining slim chance to win goes to zero if he loses Indiana. If this happens, Cruz should withdraw. While Erickson has been on-target on many things, he was wrong in September to call it a Rubio vs Cruz race, and he’s wrong now to tell Cruz to stay in to the bitter end.
As one who said three weeks ago, “This is the week Cruz won the nomination”, I must explain. I had calculated that the Cruz Wisconsin win, scooping up second ballot delegates, and the ‘signal’ of GOP support to give Cruz sufficient lift to cap Trump under 50% in New York. That would keep the narrative as one that Trump could not close the deal, but Cruz could. But Trump managed to stay gaffe-free, turned Cruz’ very wins in Colorado into a phony campaign issue, and pushed the drumbeat of “I have more votes” to get the bandwagon effect on his side. With enough pro-Trump media, it worked. The northeast states gave Trump his first majority-vote wins.
The delegate math is simple: If Trump wins Indiana, the “It’s over drumbeat” will vault Trump up everywhere. He wins West Virginia and New Jersey easily, gets more in Oregon and Washington, and he will definitely have the momentum to win California. Trump rolling on that way puts Trump at 1239 bound, but with the PA unbound delegates it looks more like 1269.
The momentum has shifted since New York, and Trump’s blowout wins in the 5 northeast states put the media and momentum on Trump’s side. An Indiana win would only amplify it. Cruz for weeks was telegraphing that the northeast was unfriendly but flyover country was more so. Now, some in the media claim Cruz got Indiana wrong – not enough Mitch Daniels, too much social conservatism. and campaign epitaphs will continue. At the end of the day, the bandwagon effect will put more unbound delegates on his side. With momentum, Trump may even take Nebraska and Montana.
Cruz will only hurt his own credibility, brand and future by staying past the point of credible chance of winning. A campaign that, like John Kasich’s, goes beyond its natural lifespan becomes a mockable exercise in futility. Each interview becomes a painful exercise of painting a scenario of pulling a rabbit out of the hat. Up until this Sunday, the Cruz position was “nobody can get to 1237”, but as I showed above, Trump can and will do that – if he has most of Indiana’s delegates. Even this past week, that has started to happen. A VP pick that is a decent and good one, but announced as an underdog candidate in a tough race, it was tagged desperation. Because it was. Every natural act of Cruz campaign going forward will be deemed ‘sabotage’ of the ‘presumptive nominee’, and Trump will do his usual mocking ‘loser’ and ‘lyin’ routine.
There is a better way. When Cruz ends his 2016 campaign hopes, he becomes the leader of the conservative wing of the Republican party. Cruz has gotten farther and further than any conservative GOP candidate since Reagan. The instant Cruz withdraws, he will become the natural leader of the conservative movement in the United States. Going forward, Senator Ted Cruz will be the conscience of the Republican party, the guardian of our conservative ideals, and will be the man who should have been our nominee.
Whether as Christians or fans of Harry Potter or Game of Thrones, we understand resurrections. We understand that the death of the Cruz 2016 campaign is not the death of conservative principles, nor the death of the American dream. It’s the end of one journey, but the beginning of others.
It may well be that the epitaph of the Cruz campaign is that they miscalculated: They under-estimated Donald Trump (as all of us did), and they thought it was 1980, when in the end, it seems to be 1976. If so, then Conservative victory will have to wait for another day, but not for too long. It took Reagan three runs before he became President.
It may well be that Senator Ted Cruz never becomes President. Fate and fortune may not serve up that opportunity to him, and he may end up with the arc and career of a Senator Jesse Helms or a Senator Edward Kennedy. Should that be the case, he may have a long life of much more influence and impact in the U.S. Senate than most others who run for President. Or it may be that a future President decides to put him on Supreme Court. Stranger things have happened. His former boss, now Governor Greg Abbott, recently tweeted in response to a cynical heckler that “God’s plan is bigger than walking”. I would add that God’s plan is bigger than running for an office as well.
The impact of Senator Ted Cruz and his 2106 campaign will be profound. As a Senator, Cruz demanded more out of the US Senate; as a candidate, Cruz has raised the bar in what we should expect from our President. Cruz won many of us over because he was smarter, more articulate, worked harder, assembled good people around him, and was both straightforward and respectful in how he made his case to others.
The best qualities of who Senator Cruz is and why he is running won’t be what gets highlighted if he moves forward past the point of futility. Cruz has a bright future as a conservative leader, but if Indiana decides that now in 2016 is not his time to be the nominee, he should respect that, withdraw, and lead us to fight another day.