Good morning Austin:
Ted Cruz’s election night routine is to come on stage with a big grin and say, “God bless” whichever state he just won or surpassed expectations in.
Last night, at his campaign watch event at Houston’s Hyatt Regency, there was no state for Cruz to invoke God’s blessing on.
For a candidate who has been promoted by key supporters as God’s anointed candidate, the question today is why God has forsaken him, especially just as he would assume the mantle as the only man who can fulfill the holy mission of standing in the gap and stopping the Republican Party from nominating Donald Trump – Donald Trump ! – for president of the United States.
Cruz came very close in Missouri, which ended in a virtual dead heat, but it appears he lost to Trump though a recount is possible. But, if that loss stands, Cruz went winless in five states Tuesday, undermining his momentum heading into what now promises to be a long slog to try to deprive Trump of the 1,234 delegates he needs to secure the nomination in Cleveland in July.
Without a Missouri win, it appears that Cruz picked up only 34 delegates last night, increasing his total from 376 to 420. He went from trailing Trump by fewer than 100 delegates to lagging nearly 250 delegates behind.
According to an AP analysis, Cruz would need to win 75 percent of the remaining delegates to win the nomination.
NBC put the new delegate tally at 656 delegates for Trump, 408 for Cruz, 172 for Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the race last night, and 138 for Kasich, and calculated that Trump could get to the requisite 1,237 delegates without having to crack 50 percent in any of the remaining contests.
The stark reality for Cruz is that, with yesterday’s primaries in Florida and North Carolina, every state of the Old Confederacy has now voted and Ted Cruz – who was depending on the South to be the cornerstone of his strategy – has won exactly one of those states, his home state of Texas.
Cruz has done better in the South of late. He finished a strong second in North Carolina, just as he had in Louisiana. According to the CNN exit poll, Cruz fought Trump to a draw with the 68 percent of the North Carolina GOP electorate who identify as evangelical Christians, but his strategy depended on evangelical voters being his go-to constituency.
Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe said last night that, one-on-one, Cruz can thrash Trump the rest of the way, especially in the 18 of 22 upcoming contests where Democratic crossover voting is not allowed, and clinch the nomination before Cleveland, or short of that, triumph in a contested convention.
But, in a bit of whack-a-mole, even as Trump helped Cruz by knocking Rubio out of the race – albeit at the huge cost to Cruz of Trump picking up Florida’s 99 delegates – up pops Kasich who defeated Trump in his home state.
While Roe contends that that’s it for Kasich – he just peaked and has nowhere to go – Kasich’s victory continues to deprive Cruz of his clean shot at Trump and gives Republicans who despair at the prospect of a Trump nomination but disdain or even despise Cruz, with an alternative.
On Wednesday on MSBC’s Morning Joe, Carly Fiorina, who has emerged in recent days as Cruz’s top surrogate, said that Kasich, fresh off his victory, doesn’t have a path to the nomination and ought to quit the race and leave it to Cruz.
“Every day John Kasich remains in the race, it benefits Donald Trump,” said Cruz, saying that a candidate without a path to victory ought to make way for a candidate with one.
Not gonna happen.
It will be up to Kasich in the next few days to put some meat on the bones of his game plan, and up to the Cruz campaign to effectively make the case that Kasich’s best day is behind him, and to better establish that Cruz is truly the sole locus of anti-Trump sentiment.
But Trump is heavy favorite to win Arizona’s winner-take-all primary on Tuesday, which would more than offset a loss in Utah, which also votes Tuesday.
Trump said he won’t be participating at Monday’s Fox debate in Salt Lake City, and Kasich consultant John Weaver tweeted, “No debate in SLC Monday due to Trump backing out.” Which leaves Cruz, but I’m not sure an evening alone on stage is what he needs or desires or Fox wants.
The big thing going for Cruz -and Kasich – remains Trump, and the enormous doubts that swirl around his candidacy. But, increasingly, their fate depends on Trump doing himself in, and, try as Trump might, week after week, that doesn’t seem to be happening.
But it appears that Trump will keep trying.
Tuesday night, it was Trump, petulant and ungracious in victory, and on Wednesday on Morning Joe, breathtakingly imperious.
Asked who he consults with to be sure he is prepared to be president on Day One, Trump, on the phone, said, “I am speaking with myself because I have a very good brain. I know what I’m doing.”
“My primary consultant is myself and I have a good instinct for this stuff.”