Cruz’s Last Stand

Following his home-state defeat on March 15th -- the Ides of March -- the media largely spent the following day eulogizing Marco Rubio’s campaign. I’ve read about a dozen articles, some more wistful than others, bidding it farewell. This, of course, marks the final demise of a candidacy which was already in hospice, and most of us that knew it were glad to see it out of its pain.

This should have additionally been a fond farewell for John Kasich’s presidential run, unless one wants to claim a noble victory in being mathematically eliminated from the presidency. If that’s the watermark, then Jim Gilmore should have given a victory speech last night as well. 

Metaphorically, Kasich’s campaign harkens to The Sixth Sense in that the protagonist doesn’t know that he’s dead. As his endgame is a brokered convention, look for Kasich to only drop out if one of the other candidates is on a clear and unstoppable path to cresting over 1,237. When disruption is the point, then only chase that which may be disrupted (that’s my first-ever attempt at writing a proverb).

Before long the media will be done circling those corpses and on to the next set of primaries; hoping to see another victim. After all, we are down to only two candidates in the Republican field which still have a chance to win the nomination outright, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, and the former is about to have his own “do or die” moment. If Senator Cruz can’t win big on March 22nd it likely only leaves two scenarios in play: an outright Trump win or a brokered convention.

The sequence should be well-scripted for Cruz as the contests move to Arizona and Utah. However, as a Cruz supporter I don’t believe that it is an exercise in the dramatic to call them Cruz’s last stand.

On March 22nd, Utah will offer 40 delegates in a similar caucus format to that previously seen in several states (winner-takes-all with more than 50% of the vote and a 15% minimum threshold for delegates otherwise). Arizona will offer 58 delegates on an outright winner-take-all basis.

There is not yet any reliable polling in either state (the most-recent polls on RealClearPolitics have Ben Carson leading Arizona, for what it’s worth) but there is the potential that this scenario could play out as well as Cruz could hope. Arizona is a somewhat religious (about 50% evangelical or Catholic) and fairly conservative state, and Utah might be an even better fit for his mold. Plus, he has the backing of popular Utah Senator Mike Lee and was the first to begin making media purchases in the region.

Of additional note, Arizona will be a closed primary and Utah will be semi-closed; allowing only Republican voters but also allowing registration on caucus night. Where Ted Cruz has been able to grab his wins, these have been the sorts of contests.

More than any of this, however, on March 22nd Ted Cruz will finally have going for him the aforementioned, long-coveted elimination of Marco Rubio. We will now find out if this shift in the race has come too late.

I would argue that, more than anything that Trump has done positively for himself, it has been Marco Rubio who has helped Donald Trump to get to where he is (and Ted Cruz to where he is). Enough has been written about the fact that I won’t go into detail, but this would be a much different race if Marco Rubio had dropped out before March 15th. I presume that Donald Trump still would have won Florida and its 99 delegates. However, without splitting the vote yet again Ted Cruz would have assuredly won Missouri and may have also taken North Carolina or Illinois. These add to the long list of delegates gifted to The Donald by The Marco -- the price of his hubris -- along with victories-turned-losses for Cruz in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, a supermajority in Texas, and so-on through all of the greatest hits.

This brings us back to Utah and Arizona. Ted Cruz finally has the two-man race he has been looking for or, at least, as close as he is ever going to get.

While admittedly the Kasich campaign remains a spoiler there could be a delayed effect in its mobilizing as such. After all, the Ohio governor has little in place past his own state in either financing or infrastructure, including far less than Cruz or Trump in often-overrated PAC money. The governor will likely make a few campaign appearances in the Southwest while circling Wisconsin on his calendar.

I argue (fear) that it may be too late for Cruz to get an outright delegate win. I don’t deny the fact that Donald Trump has ever-so-slowly increased his share of the popular vote; an always-expected phenomenon as frontrunners tend to build momentum. Victory reinforces victory. On March 15th (the 3rd of how many Super Tuesdays?) Trump collected about 42% of the vote. Before that day he had only averaged about 37% -- talk about your mandates! This expansion of his own support may continue and, if it does, Trump will most certainly get to 1,237 and the nomination. Like Cruz, he also has a number of benefits in the upcoming contests including the endorsement of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Still, this is Ted Cruz’s last great opportunity. To achieve 50% of the vote in Utah and a majority in Arizona would serve to re-narrow the gap between the two candidates and bring Ted Cruz back to within about 150 delegates of the frontrunner. A big win would likely also give him real, true momentum for the first time in the race. Right or wrong, his previous victories have constantly been muted or overshadowed by other candidates (anecdotally, my wife had no idea that he’d won eight contests).

The Republican race for the nomination is not yet over.  However, if Ted Cruz can’t capitalize next week -- whether he continues running or not -- his campaign might be the next one to need an obituary.

Following his home-state defeat on March 15th -- the Ides of March -- the media largely spent the following day eulogizing Marco Rubio’s campaign. I’ve read about a dozen articles, some more wistful than others, bidding it farewell. This, of course, marks the final demise of a candidacy which was already in hospice, and most of us that knew it were glad to see it out of its pain.

This should have additionally been a fond farewell for John Kasich’s presidential run, unless one wants to claim a noble victory in being mathematically eliminated from the presidency. If that’s the watermark, then Jim Gilmore should have given a victory speech last night as well. 

Metaphorically, Kasich’s campaign harkens to The Sixth Sense in that the protagonist doesn’t know that he’s dead. As his endgame is a brokered convention, look for Kasich to only drop out if one of the other candidates is on a clear and unstoppable path to cresting over 1,237. When disruption is the point, then only chase that which may be disrupted (that’s my first-ever attempt at writing a proverb).

Before long the media will be done circling those corpses and on to the next set of primaries; hoping to see another victim. After all, we are down to only two candidates in the Republican field which still have a chance to win the nomination outright, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, and the former is about to have his own “do or die” moment. If Senator Cruz can’t win big on March 22nd it likely only leaves two scenarios in play: an outright Trump win or a brokered convention.

The sequence should be well-scripted for Cruz as the contests move to Arizona and Utah. However, as a Cruz supporter I don’t believe that it is an exercise in the dramatic to call them Cruz’s last stand.

On March 22nd, Utah will offer 40 delegates in a similar caucus format to that previously seen in several states (winner-takes-all with more than 50% of the vote and a 15% minimum threshold for delegates otherwise). Arizona will offer 58 delegates on an outright winner-take-all basis.

There is not yet any reliable polling in either state (the most-recent polls on RealClearPolitics have Ben Carson leading Arizona, for what it’s worth) but there is the potential that this scenario could play out as well as Cruz could hope. Arizona is a somewhat religious (about 50% evangelical or Catholic) and fairly conservative state, and Utah might be an even better fit for his mold. Plus, he has the backing of popular Utah Senator Mike Lee and was the first to begin making media purchases in the region.

Of additional note, Arizona will be a closed primary and Utah will be semi-closed; allowing only Republican voters but also allowing registration on caucus night. Where Ted Cruz has been able to grab his wins, these have been the sorts of contests.

More than any of this, however, on March 22nd Ted Cruz will finally have going for him the aforementioned, long-coveted elimination of Marco Rubio. We will now find out if this shift in the race has come too late.

I would argue that, more than anything that Trump has done positively for himself, it has been Marco Rubio who has helped Donald Trump to get to where he is (and Ted Cruz to where he is). Enough has been written about the fact that I won’t go into detail, but this would be a much different race if Marco Rubio had dropped out before March 15th. I presume that Donald Trump still would have won Florida and its 99 delegates. However, without splitting the vote yet again Ted Cruz would have assuredly won Missouri and may have also taken North Carolina or Illinois. These add to the long list of delegates gifted to The Donald by The Marco -- the price of his hubris -- along with victories-turned-losses for Cruz in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, a supermajority in Texas, and so-on through all of the greatest hits.

This brings us back to Utah and Arizona. Ted Cruz finally has the two-man race he has been looking for or, at least, as close as he is ever going to get.

While admittedly the Kasich campaign remains a spoiler there could be a delayed effect in its mobilizing as such. After all, the Ohio governor has little in place past his own state in either financing or infrastructure, including far less than Cruz or Trump in often-overrated PAC money. The governor will likely make a few campaign appearances in the Southwest while circling Wisconsin on his calendar.

I argue (fear) that it may be too late for Cruz to get an outright delegate win. I don’t deny the fact that Donald Trump has ever-so-slowly increased his share of the popular vote; an always-expected phenomenon as frontrunners tend to build momentum. Victory reinforces victory. On March 15th (the 3rd of how many Super Tuesdays?) Trump collected about 42% of the vote. Before that day he had only averaged about 37% -- talk about your mandates! This expansion of his own support may continue and, if it does, Trump will most certainly get to 1,237 and the nomination. Like Cruz, he also has a number of benefits in the upcoming contests including the endorsement of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Still, this is Ted Cruz’s last great opportunity. To achieve 50% of the vote in Utah and a majority in Arizona would serve to re-narrow the gap between the two candidates and bring Ted Cruz back to within about 150 delegates of the frontrunner. A big win would likely also give him real, true momentum for the first time in the race. Right or wrong, his previous victories have constantly been muted or overshadowed by other candidates (anecdotally, my wife had no idea that he’d won eight contests).

The Republican race for the nomination is not yet over.  However, if Ted Cruz can’t capitalize next week -- whether he continues running or not -- his campaign might be the next one to need an obituary.