Politics & Policy

Why Cruz Is the Likely Choice at the Convention

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)


I wouldn’t say that the GOP is falling in love with Ted Cruz, but maybe it’s falling in like.

In arguably the most improbable political season of our lifetimes, this fact has to rank high on the list of things no one could have seen coming. If they gave out report cards for first-term senators, Cruz would get an “F” in the “plays well with others” category. Party leaders believed that his 2013 gambit to shut down the government over Obamacare was a disaster for everyone but Cruz, and they have harbored a not-so-secret disdain for him since.

But that’s all over — at least for now.

Like Perseus pulling Medusa’s head out of a sack to petrify his enemies, Cruz has been able to dangle the prospect of a President Trump to strike fear in the hearts of even his biggest detractors.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) once said choosing between Donald Trump and Cruz was like choosing between being shot or poisoned. Graham chose his poison. He’s out there raising money for Cruz. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), whose hatred for Cruz was the stuff of Sicilian blood feuds, seems to have reconciled himself to the fact that Cruz is the only person who can stop Trump. McConnell’s definitely not in love, but he recognizes that these are the cards we’ve all been dealt.

RELATED: Cruz Is a Safer General-Election Bet than Trump

Team Cruz fears that people such as McConnell will use the convention in Cleveland this summer to reshuffle the deck and get a new deal — a new candidate more palatable to the establishment. “There is still distrust over whether or not the party is actually willing to accept Cruz as the nominee or if they’re using him to shut down Trump only to then stab Cruz in the back come summer,” Erick Erickson, a conservative talk-show host and Cruz backer, told the Washington Post.

The concern is understandable but overblown. Although a contested convention is likely, the “white knight” scenario, in which someone other than Cruz, Trump, or John Kasich swoops in and “steals” the nomination, is not.

RELATED: Trump and Cruz: A Tale of Two Campaigns, One of Which Is Competent

At an open convention, the delegates, not Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, are in charge of everything. Imagine if attendees of the great nerd conclave known as Comic-Con set the rules for Comic-Con. Now imagine someone proposed replacing a screening of the new X-Men movie with a mandatory day-long seminar on crop rotation in the 14th century. Would it happen?

#share#Yes, it’s theoretically possible that the delegates will choose a white knight, but that would happen only after days of deadlocked voting.

In other words, the delegates would have to really want someone other than Cruz. And given the Cruz campaign’s success at lining up huge numbers of sympathetic delegates, that seems unlikely.

RELATED: Ted Cruz Is Surging by Design

And would they really rally to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), the most-discussed potential savior? I doubt it.

Although there is no coherent ideological agenda implied by the term “anti-establishment,” it is a recognizable attitude. Trump and Cruz have very different philosophies. (For starters, Cruz has one.) But they are both avatars of the anti-establishment mood, a mood that will be well represented on the convention floor. It seems unlikely that delegates’ ultimate choice would be someone so synonymous with the establishment.

There’s also the fact that Paul Ryan doesn’t want the nomination, and there are precious few other figures of equal stature in the party.

#related#If Trump loses on the first ballot, the most likely scenario is that Cruz will win on the second or third. In fact, some see a path where Cruz cobbles together his own delegates, unbound delegates, and, say, Marco Rubio’s delegates and wins on the first ballot. He’s that good at working the system.

There’s some irony here, of course. Cruz spent years building his reputation as the guy who wants to tear down the system, and now it’s the system, not necessarily the voters, that may put him over the top.

Nervous Republicans should find this reassuring. Yes, in a normal year, failure to win a majority of votes in the primaries would present a serious PR problem. But this isn’t a normal year. Meanwhile, Cruz is demonstrating, yet again, his ability to do what is required to win. That’s a skill that will be much needed come the fall.

— Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor of National Review. You can write to him by e-mail at goldbergcolumn@gmail.com, or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2016 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More