Cruz’s Last Line of Defense

Cruz’s Last Line of Defense

The Briefing, Vol. IV, Issue 18-
  • Kasich supporters will decide Indiana
  • Indiana could decide the nomination
  • Sanders tries to boost morale

Last week’s results have put us in a situation where the Republican nomination might be decided tomorrow. If Ted Cruz stops Donald Trump in Indiana, he has several other wins to look forward to before a final, decisive contest in California. If Trump wins Indiana, it’s probably all over, and Republicans will have winnowed a promising field down to nominate the most unpopular candidate in the history of presidential polling.

Hoosier GOP nominee? Trump’s strong performance in last week’s Acela primary was a huge overperformance in terms of vote, and a modest overperformance in terms of bound and favorable delegates. But add it to his overperformance in New York the week before, and you essentially add an extra small state (about the size of Delaware) to Trump’s total.

This is why a lot of people are now discussing Trump as inevitable. In fact, he still isn’t given the math and reasonable assumptions, but the effort to stop him is now truly at its last line of defense.

Cruz’s first do-or-die moment now comes earlier than expected, in Indiana.

This is why you saw Cruz try to shake up the race by selecting a running mate. The move has no obvious drawbacks, and three apparent benefits.

First, coming as it did last Wednesday, Cruz’s announcement distracted immediately from Trump’s strong day on the Acela Corridor. This is actually something Trump has mastered as a candidate — stomp on bad news with good news that changes the subject. Of course, this works better when you have a delegate lead than when you trail as Cruz does, but it still works.

Second, this will likely encourage women who have reservations about Cruz to give him another look. Trump’s favorability with women is simply appalling, but Cruz hasn’t always been in the best position to take advantage of that. Fiorina could well help him there.

Third, depending on what happens in Indiana, Fiorina’s participation could help Cruz in California. He might well have to win the Golden State — a longshot, but still a possibility — in order to force a convention. Fiorina, who won her primary in California for the 2010 Senate race against Barbara Boxer, is at least known to the voters there and could well help. But Cruz will need some successes now for California to matter.

Still, let’s not confuse theory with reality. Cruz must win Indiana on Tuesday, or else his bid for the presidency is over. So, for that matter, is John Kasich’s bid. The only way Kaisch’s super-longshot bid for the presidency can be saved is if his supporters in Indiana vote for Cruz. And in fact, it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, because if they do vote for Cruz then they at least leave open the possibility that Indiana’s Kasich-friendly delegate slate will have a chance to vote for Kasich beginning with the second ballot at the convention. But the fact that so many voters continue to say they will vote for Kasich is a serious blow against the idea of strategic voting working in this election.

The fact that Kasich hasn’t gone all the way and encouraged his backers to vote for Cruz is a bit curious, given that all of Kasich’s hopes lie with a Cruz victory. Such an arrangement did work out for Kasich when Marco Rubio encouraged his supporters to vote Kasich in Ohio. But resistance to Trump could well end on Tuesday as a result of a split opposition.

If Trump wins Indiana, it’s basically over. And it means that Hillary Clinton instantly becomes a heavy, double-digit favorite and every down-ballot Republican in America becomes much more endangered than before. This is a reminder of just how high the stakes really will be on Tuesday.

Who will win? The polls diverge widely. The arguments for the ones showing the race very close include the decision by Gov. Mike Pence to endorse after all, which is helpful to Cruz and could also be taken as a sign that victory is possible. Cruz and anti-Trump allies have been up on the air almost unceasingly, and Cruz has been working the state without any interludes elsewhere.

But this could also be a sign of desperation. What’s more, the Kasich supporters who are supposed to make all the difference seem content to let his campaign end.  By evening Tuesday, Trump may be locked in as the nominee (not mathematically, of course), and Clinton thus locked in as the next president. 

Delegate wars: Although it is is an open question whether it will matter for the actual vote for the nominee at the convention, Cruz continues to snap up delegates. It has long been clear that Trump’s only hope is to win on the first ballot, but that fact becomes more and more obvious as the delegates keep rolling.

On Saturday, Cruz managed to install loyalists in Trump-pledged delegate slots in Arizona, South Carolina, Missouri, Arkansas, and Virginia. This comes on top of earlier successes in Louisiana, Georgia, and almost everywhere else. The noteworthy exception is Massachusetts, possibly the only place where Trump has managed to wrangle other candidates’ delegates.

Even if Trump does get the delegates he needs to win the nomination on the first ballot in Cleveland, it could still be interesting to see the consequences of Cruz’s dramatic success in stacking the delegates. One example: Trump has openly discussed watering down various aspects of the party’s conservative platform, including on abortion. Cruz might well prevent him from tinkering at will. He might also attain sufficient control of the rules committee to dimiminish the pageantry of a Trump convention, which the presumptive nominee typically controls with an iron fist.

Again, this may not seem that important in the grand scheme of things, but the convention is about more than just choosing a nominee, and its other aspects are worth watching as well.

Democrats: Hillary Clinton has the nomination locked up — and Indiana’s result will likely confirm this. This will be the case even if she loses on Tuesday, but she is expected to win.

This makes Bernie Sanders’ insistence that he will fight on for a contested convention seem somewhat puzzling.

It might mean something if Sanders can force Clinton’s victory at convention to depend on the Superdelegates who support her. But the idea that he can wrangle any significant number of superdelegates from her is rather bizarre.

Put yourself in the position of a party mandarin who has already endorsed Clinton. She is going to be the nominee, and your earlier decision to endorse her demonstrates that you don’t have any qualms in principle about backing her. So why do you switch now, right when it’s obvious she’s going to win the nomination?

This is most likely an attempt by Sanders to retain or regain some relevance in the contest — a morale-builder for his supporters. There is a real danger at this point that many will give up hope, and that would cause Sanders to suffer a drop-off in later contests.

Sander has earlier made noises that his candidacy might finally be just an ideas campaign, and that he understands he has no chance of upsetting Clinton. Sanders appears to recognize this as a mistake, and is now recommitting to his supporters with the proposition that their vote still matters, even now.

In reality, their vote doesn’t matter any more — yet their votes already have made a difference. Sanders has pushed Clinton far to the left of where she would like to be. If Republicans hadn’t set themselves on a course of party suicide this year, it might have even made a difference in the election outcome. Instead, the perfect storm has arisen to give Clinton a mandate to govern from the Left after she easily defeats Trump in the general election.

Indiana-Senate: Hoosiers will also be voting on Tuesday to replace Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., who is retiring. Former Rep. Baron Hill, D, will be the Democratic nominee, but Republicans have a much more competitive and interesting primary. Marlin Stutzman, the conservative congressman from the state’s northeastern Third District, enjoys the support of the Club for Growth. But he is expected to come up short against the establishment favorite, Rep. Todd Young of the south-central Ninth District.

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17 COMMENTS

  1. In many ways the author is correct. It does come down to Indiana for Cruz. If he loses here, Trump’s aura of inevitability will be markedly strengthened.

    Living in Ohio (near the Indiana border), I listen to a lot of Indiana media. Trump to his credit is recognizing that in order to secure the nomination, he does have to engage at a grass roots level and has done that. Trump to his discredit has taken to distorting Cruz’ record and positions, making him sound more like an ally of Obama that even Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell. Knowing Cruz’ record, it’s hard for me to see where the line is between campaign rhetoric/hyperbole and outright lying.

    Had Trump chosen not to slander Cruz throughout the campaign, Cruz would have been an admirable running mate for Trump to consider.

  2. “By evening Tuesday, Trump may be locked in
    as the nominee (not mathematically, of course), and Clinton thus locked
    in as the next president.” Someone is not paying attention to what is really happening. The assumption Hillary will instantly win if Trump is the nominee is not a given. When the choice between the two becomes concrete, they entire dynamic will change. It seems some have learned nothing from the primaries. NOTHING is as it had been. So the polls that look at the race as it has always been are useless. There are two nominees with abysmal favorability ratings. One, Hillary, is cast in stone. She will change no one’s mind and can only lose support from here. Trump is cast in jello and has enormous room to move. His ability to pull from the left is clear. That won’t be the case w Hillary and the right. The best she can hope for is for those on the right to stay home.

    This is far from over……

    • If the choice on election day is between Trump or Hillary, many, many Republicans will simply find that too disgusting to even participate.

      • I am sorry to hear that “many Republicans will simply find that too disgusting to even participate”. Oh! We are to “sassy”! Well.. then leave America to suffer under control of Liberals and Democrats!

        • You still don’t get it. Trump and Hillary are two sides of the same coin. It’s a choice between Democrat #1 or Democrat #2. Why the heck don’t you people back a true conservative?

          • Oh… pick me…!

            Because they can’t win! I would love it if we could get that true conservative. But if you are thinking Cruz, he would get wiped out in the general. And I voted for him.

          • Absolutely false. Americans will swamp the polls to end all things obama/pelosi/reid. Think about it. And It’s so credible that it is undeniable.. Trump invented that lie, like all his other lies..

          • I get it– (hands flailing and calling people names while adoring myself and calling it goood) Oh boy– DO I GET IT…
            Trump supported dems with money and talk, on the wrong team..

        • Well… That’s not true.. Neither is ‘trumpers would bail” Not because they are sappy or anything. I respect them,
          BUT as soon as they see the whole loaf (and know it is in their sights), and the repeal of all things obama/pelosi/reid in weeks, not years— They will wish they never heard of trump– just like they did last year..

          AND THEY WILL RUN TO THE POLLS IN NUMBERS LIKE NEVER BEFORE! !

      • And they will realize the sum of all their fears as Hillary illustrates how the country can be irretrievably moved far left. This choice is not even close for a true Republican. We can not allow Hillary to finish the job Obama has started. This is not just another election. It is the election of our lifetime. Before the contest began I decided to vote for anyone against Hillary. Having lived through the Clintons it is clear what they will do with unlimited power. Obama has shown her the path of no consequences for actions. At least he had a core or principles. I don’t agree with them, but they are there. The Clinton’s don’t have any apparent principles. In contrast with Trump I would take him any day of the week. I may have to wear a paper bag over my head to vote, but I will vote.

      • I agree. it’s possible., But a Republican majority (or suprmajority) is actually better than a trump with any of the above..
        ONLY and I mean ONLY a conservaitve with both will repeal all things obama/p[elos/reid that TRUMP ACTUALLY FUNDED FOR, as well gang of eight, stimulus, tarp ans other things his NY liberal funded faves supported.
        I WANT THE WHOLE LOAF.. Not 1/4 loaf or -1/4 load trump.
        And winning against hillary is a certainty, as sure as wisconsin, kennedy seat, 29 statehouses, and a pelosi/reid-less senate majority.
        110% best bet since secretariat.. Trump wants them to QUIT… What does that tell you?

    • Or… He will have to keep on.. And maybe– Maybe be forced to do something like FINALLY, Finally put a pro second amendment ‘communique’ on his website (platform_ which cruz just forced him to do, that without cruz you would not have seen.

      Trump wants you to vote on him, before you see What’s IN HIM. What else is missing?
      A little firming up about “I’ll real obamacare and replace it with ‘something gooood, you will love it, you’ll see” Trump has called single payer ‘goooood”

  3. This is my personal opinion… I am a low middle class citizen. I am supporter of Republican party for many years ( since I immigrated to USA) I am looking at the dangerous game that is playing on the arena of Republican party, I am watching republicans screaming and yelling about saving United States. I am in disbelieve, but it is a reality. Republican Party is complete chaos,

    • Trump is not the best chance to win. Trump wasn’t there to win Wisconsin, the senate and house (blowing up pelosi/reid), nor the kennedy seat- nor 29 statehouse.
      Trump is weak and blusterful, full of himself, narcissistic and petty.
      Trump does NOT have ‘great people and advisers’ he has ‘trump entertainment and resorts (himself).. A as proof he has hire NY Lobbyists and an obama MORON as his National securiry adviser. Where are these “great people”
      He doesn’t have them. Trump bin lyin’ Trump bin lyin’ about all this. Nobody nut NOBODY called trump and ‘asked his to save us’.. Except maybe liberals who probably asked hin to save THEM from the conservative movement.. Which Reump has been attacking all along.. certainly never embraced in word, nor deed.
      TRUMP IS A FRAUD! Trump started out with a lie from the beginning, kept lying all along. I’ve been LISTENING..

  4. Even if trump were to win Indian, which id kinda laughable, all things considered– The fight will go on. Trump is lying to you,
    And no– Nobody is going to tell a conservative to sit down and shut up. EVER!
    Trump doesn’t care about the down ticket that is being cultivated, nor does he care about these Americans right TO BE HEARD
    EVERYONE GETS TO BE HEARD.. IN EVERY STATE, Whether trump likes it or not,,
    Trump has been bullying them, calling them all but irrelevant. An example of why and where trump could blow the whole thing as ‘the nominees”…

  5. Time for a little break kids.. Find Ted Cruz’ dad in the pictogram below..
    Score value : 2 trump points!
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