By the time the votes were counted in Wisconsin on April 5, Ted Cruz was a mere 197 delegates behind Donald Trump with the wind at his back. Cruz had taken three out of four primaries since March 22 – including a decisive victory over Trump in Wisconsin.
All the pundits – including this one – were talking about a contested convention in Cleveland come this July.
What was not immediately apparent on that April 5 evening was the fact that it would be the last good day of the Ted Cruz campaign.
Two weeks later in New York, Donald Trump would begin a 7 – 0 run that would see Cruz picking up a mere six additional delegates to Trump’s 291. That string of Trump victories, which began on the 19th in New York and concluded on the 26th in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island – the so-called “Acela Primaries,” would effectively doom the Cruz campaign.
The next stop would be Indiana – a state not used to having much to say about who gets a presidential nomination.
At one time the rather limited polling in Indiana showed Cruz with a comfortable lead. But Trump’s blowout wins in the Northeast created a bandwagon effect. By the time voters went to the polls yesterday in Indiana, it was clear that Trump was going to win handily.
Though Cruz had been mathematically eliminated from a first convention ballot nomination several weeks ago, a victory in Indiana would have so complicated Trump’s path to a first-ballot nomination that Cruz could plausibly pursue a second-ballot, brokered deal at the GOP convention in Cleveland.
Cruz, the best organized of all GOP candidates this election season, poured maximum effort into Indiana. Every commercial break on every TV station was filled with ads purchased either by Ted Cruz or by his PAC. Cruz, who early in the campaign had maintained a fragile truce with Donald Trump, unloaded on Trump with everything he had.
He verbally eviscerated Trump, calling him a “serial philanderer,” a “pathological liar,” and a “narcissist.” “The man is utterly amoral,” said Cruz of Trump.
None of it meant a thing. Trump crushed Ted Cruz in Indiana by a 53 to 36 margin.
And so Ted Cruz – with a pot full of money and a very, very good state and local-level “ground game” as they call it – has quit the race.
There won’t be a brokered convention in Cleveland. Donald Trump will roll into town with more than enough delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot.
For Donald Trump, the race moves to the general election. Already the punditry is saying that he faces an uphill battle against Hillary Clinton. Trump’s lack of state-level organization, his deficits with women and with minorities and the fact that Democrats start each election cycle with an Electoral College map advantage, will make it hard for Donald Trump to defeat Hillary, they say.
If I were Hillary, I wouldn’t be so sure.