Last night, as we watched the so-called “establishment lane” candidates collapse, I marveled at the continuing reluctance of the non-Trump GOP to put its full power behind Cruz. I don’t just mean the political class — endorsements have proven ineffective in stopping Trump — but the full range of donors, activists, and others who are often able to exercise decisive influence.
Activists and donors can persuade doomed candidates to quit their races, they can provide the extra organization and cash that make a difference in close contests, and they can be leaders in the difficult conversations necessary to knit a party back together. But there’s little indication this is happening — at least not yet, and maybe not until it’s too late.
The prime reason Cruz is the last conservative standing is also the prime reason he’s having trouble uniting the party. He’s the anti-establishment constitutional conservative. To a rebellious electorate, Cruz is the other acceptable revolutionary. And Cruz has done everything he can — short of burning down the Capitol — to demonstrate that he’s a politician of fierce conviction. He’s not as incendiary as Trump, but he’s undoubtedly the most incendiary senator.
And that means that enough people dislike him — often for purely personal reasons — that they’ll cut off their nose to spite their face. As I tweeted last night, grassroots rage at the establishment is giving us Trump. The establishment’s hatred for Cruz is also giving us Trump.
Cruz wouldn’t be so far ahead of Rubio and Kasich without taking on the political class, but it’s increasingly clear that he can’t get past Trump without that same political class – including its donors, leaders, and — critically — voters. Thus, the Cruz Catch-22. For him, victory depends on men and women who are willing to swallow their pride, set aside personal drama, and put their country first.