U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz may emerge from Tuesday’s primaries in five states without a win, but he counted his continued accumulation of delegates and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s departure from the race, as securing his place as the only candidate who can overtake Donald Trump.
“Tonight was a good a night,” Cruz told supporters at the Hyatt Regency Tuesday night.
“Tonight we continued to gain delegates and continue our march to 1,237,” Cruz said of the number of delegates necessary to prevail at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who scored a solid victory over Trump in the winner-take-all primary in his home state, undermines Cruz’s claim to be Trump’s sole rival, but the Cruz campaign counts Kasich as little more than a favorite son candidate without the money, organization or prospects elsewhere that would provide him with any reasonable chance of success.
“Only two campaigns have plausible paths to the nomination — ours and Donald Trump’s,” Cruz said. “Only one campaign has beaten Donald Trump over and over and over. Not once, not twice, not three times, but nine times all across the country from Alaska to Maine.”
Cruz lavished praise on Rubio and invited his rival and his supporters to join his campaign.
“Marco, we welcome you with open arms,” Cruz said.
As the night’s results unfolded, Jeff Roe, Cruz’s campaign manger, said the race will now pivot in Cruz’s direction.
Rubio is out, Roe said, and, “Kasich, if he has a one-state win, his own state, and he gets nothing else and is third or fourth in most states, the math is overwhelming and I don’t know how he is going to stay in.”
The South has now finished voting, with Cruz scoring a single but important win in Texas. With its very conservative electorate and large evangelical population, the South was supposed to be Cruz’s most fertile turf. But Roe said Cruz is still well-positioned for success because 14 of the remaining 22 contests allow only Republicans to participate in the party’s voting, and another four allow only Republicans or independents to vote. Trump does best where Democrats can cross over and participate.
But Claremont McKenna political scientist Jack Pitney said that Cruz has to prove that he can thrive in states with smaller evangelical populations and less conservative Republican electorates, and that the stop-Trump effort might benefit from both Kasich and Cruz, with their different appeals, remaining in the race.
“It remains to be seen if Kasich can really mount much of a campaign, but it is also the case that non-Trump voters now have to decide between a pretty conventional guy and a slash-and-burn DC guy who no one really likes,” said Rutgers University political scientist David Redlawsk. “That’s a pretty tough choice.”
“One real question, can Kasich now raise the money to keep his campaign moving forward?” Redlawsk said.
Redlawsk said Trump has maxed out on his potential support, but “Cruz really cannot win it outright unless Trump actually collapses. The math is just against him. But with Kasich still in, combined they can still keep Trump from 1,237.”
Tuesday’s primaries followed a week in which Trump further raised questions about his temperament and suitability to serve as president. But despite his loss to Kasich in Ohio, Trump had a good night with his lopsided victory in Florida, with its winner-take-all haul of delegates, and wins over Cruz and other candidates in North Carolina and Illinois. Trump held a tiny lead over Cruz with almost all the voted counted in Missouri, where the senator from Texas had hoped to steal a win from the front-runner.
“The negative ads run against (Trump) in Ohio and Illinois had minimal effect,” said University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus. “Attacks from the other candidates largely glanced off of the Trump steamroller. Efforts to derail him have been unsuccessful. Despite serious intra-party heartburn, it’s his nomination to lose.”
Rottinghaus agreed with the Cruz campaign that Kasich’s home state win was of no great moment.
“Ohio’s results for the Republicans are largely meaningless, except it gives Kasich some thrust at the convention in Cleveland,” Rottinghaus said. “Kasich was the most popular governor in the nation and possibly the most popular person in Ohio since Woody Hayes. It’s like Big Bird winning a majority on Sesame Street — it was a foregone conclusion.”
“The race is still effectively a two man race between Cruz and Trump,” Rottinghaus said. “Several Northeast states upcoming give Trump an edge, but California in a few months is manifest destiny for Cruz and represents his last stand,” Rottinghaus said. “The math of the nomination is complicated, but the final outcome will still likely be decided in Cleveland instead of in the field.”
Asked about the Texan’s chances in the Northeastern states of New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut — all of which have closed primaries — Roe said, “any state where you have to be a Republican to vote in the primary is a great state for us.”
“We believe there is a path for two candidates after tonight who can solve this where it should be, which is among the voters, and if we’re not able to get those numbers then we’ll prepare for a convention, and I think that’s less than a 50 percent chance” of the race ending at a contested convention, Roe said. “But there is a chance that we will end up there and then we’ll see who has the most delegates going into that.”
Cruz is headed to Arizona Thursday, which has a winner-take-all primary on Tuesday. He is also planning to campaign in Utah, which also votes Tuesday.
Roe said that Trump has a distinct advantage in Arizona because 55 percent of the votes have already been cast in early voting among what was a larger and more fractured field. In Louisiana last week, Cruz lost in early voting but finished a close second after a surging Election Day performance.
The Cruz campaign hasn’t made an overture to the Kasich campaign, Roe said, but that he might “send him a calculator.”
“Everyone has to come to their natural conclusion and the calculator would be their worst enemy,” Roe said.
Roe said money and support has come their way as it has become apparent that Cruz is the best hope of stopping Trump, and, as the focus sharpens on the prospect of “Donald Trump as the nominee, we’re gaining support from some of the more unlikely sources,” though he said, “there are no big surprises pending” in terms of big-name endorsements.
Trump, Cruz and Kasich are set to share the stage for a presidential debate Monday in Salt Lake City on Fox, but after the last debate, Trump had expressed a lack of enthusiasm for more debates, so his presence Monday may be a question mark.
(c)2016 Austin American-Statesman, Texas
Visit Austin American-Statesman, Texas at www.statesman.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.