By Jim Ellis
May 2, 2016 — Are the pundits who are already making Donald Trump the Republican nominee, and those House members rushing to endorse him, and the others like former House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Peter King (R-NY-2) calling out Sen. Ted Cruz acting too quickly?
It was only two weeks ago when Trump was reeling and people were speculating that he would lose a contested convention to Cruz as early as the second ballot because he had allowed the Texan to out-maneuver him in the delegate selection process. In Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Dakota, Colorado, and other places, pro-Cruz individuals were being elected as convention delegates. Though most would be legally bound to cast a first ballot for Trump, if a deadlocked convention went more than one ballot these delegates could break away and cause the New York real estate mogul to fall.
Then came New York and the eastern regional primary. Though Trump exceeded expectations and delegate quotas, was it really a surprise that he carried the states in his home region? The after-effect has reinvigorated the Trump campaign and helped send Cruz to the ropes.
The results shouldn’t surprise anyone. Trump was always projected to carry the eastern states, and certainly so when Cruz insulted the whole state of New York with his “New York values” comment in an early debate.
The Texas senator, however, is exacerbating his situation by making recent questionable moves that may be hastening his demise. The choice of Carly Fiorina as his vice presidential running mate is curious. The timing suggests an air of desperation and an attempt to re-direct media focus from Trump winning back to his own campaign.
But, the Fiorina choice seems to accomplish little. Already strong with the conservative base, the former presidential candidate who moved heavily right in her own campaign, doesn’t add much in that regard. Is bringing her on as his ticket partner a ploy to help Cruz’s standing in the important California primary, since Fiorina is a former California Senate nominee? If so, such is not likely to play out.
Though the statewide candidate in 2010, she fared poorly in the general election, losing 52-42 percent to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) in a Republican landslide year. In that campaign, she ran left of her current positions, something the conservative California primary voter is likely to remember.
Additionally, Sen. Cruz’s statements backing off his formal/informal alliance with Gov. John Kasich is another debatable move. With Kasich in the race, the only way he and Cruz stay alive is to prevent Trump from obtaining a majority on the first ballot, and then taking their chances in an open convention.
Working together, in a fashion where the strongest regional candidate gets the support of the other in order to pick off delegates, particularly in congressional district winner-take-all states like Indiana and California, is the correct move. But, the way these two are implementing the strategy, the desired result will not materialize.
For such a plan to work the exiting candidate must actively instruct his voters to support the remaining Trump opponent. Neither Cruz nor Kasich wanted to go that far, hence the half-hearted attempt at forming the only plan that could save them both will fail. Additionally, forming such an alliance two months ago, instead of when Trump is knocking on the door of national victory, would have allowed a greater degree of success.
The correct move would have been to exclusively target Indiana on Tuesday, understanding that this is the state that can make or break the Cruz for President campaign. A Cruz win there would stop the Trump victory train dead in its tracks, just as quickly as the eastern primary generated him positive campaign electricity. Indiana is a place that should be friendlier to Cruz than Trump, but the latter has small polling leads according to three different public surveys, and a misplaced Cruz effort is unlikely to turn the tide at this late hour.
While many analysts and the media may have been to quick to anoint Trump after winning states that he should have won, a new victory in Indiana on Tuesday might actually be the real thing.