Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), a 2016 Republican candidate for president who is largely considered to be the runner-up to New York City businessman Donald Trump, had a very good day on Saturday. The media has dubbed Saturday, March 5, to be “Super Saturday,” a send-up of the long-standing tradition of referring to the Tuesday that contains the most primary and caucus races as “Super Tuesday.” Ted Cruz won caucus races in both Kansas and Maine on Saturday, and took a solid second place behind Donald Trump in the Kentucky caucus, which — along with all of the states voting on Super Saturday — assigns its delegates proportionally. There will not be a winner-take-all race until March 15.
Ted Cruz’s Kansas win is particularly good news for the Cruz campaign, as it reinforces his pull with evangelical voters. The Cruz trope that he is the “evangelicals’ candidate” was on shaky ground after Donald Trump won more of the evangelical vote in the South Carolina primary than Ted Cruz did, but the large evangelical community in Kansas that turned out for Ted Cruz should, at least temporarily, solve that PR problem.
Ted Cruz also pulled a respectable second place in the Louisiana primary, causing momentary scrambling at around 11:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time when news outlets realized they may have called the race for Donald Trump too quickly. The scramble quickly calmed, however, and Trump pulled further ahead of Cruz in Louisiana, making the results clearer. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) did not win any states on Super Saturday, and did not meet the delegate threshold in Kansas, nor in Maine.
Additionally, Ted Cruz won the straw poll at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) on Saturday, an event just outside of Washington, D.C. that Donald Trump chose to skip in favor of campaigning. CPAC is held by the American Conservative Union, which is the oldest conservative lobbying organization in the United States and was founded by William F. Buckley in 1964.
CPAC draws a lot of press attention every year in March, and provides a coveted platform for conservative public figures to give speeches that are almost guaranteed to be widely circulated on cable news programs and on the internet. Out of 2700 CPAC attendees, Ted Cruz won the straw poll with a solid 40 percent. Marco Rubio came in second place with 30 percent, and Donald Trump followed in third place with 15 percent. Cruz made sure to taunt Trump for skipping his scheduled Saturday morning CPAC speech when Cruz himself showed up to the conference, along with opponents Marco Rubio and Ohio Governor John Kasich.
“I think somebody told him Megyn Kelly was going to be here. Or even worse, he was told that conservatives were going to be here. Or even worse, he was told that libertarians were going to be here. Or even worse, that young people were going to be here.”
Ted Cruz’s straw poll win opens up questions about which candidate is truly supported by Americans who self-identify as conservative. CPAC isn’t exactly Republican establishment central, but the Republican establishment isn’t the only group on the right that has a problem with Donald Trump. Ted Cruz is the preferred candidate for some conservative outliers like Glenn Beck, former Fox News Channel host and founder of The Blaze, who — along with others — has insisted that Donald Trump is not reliably a small-government conservative.
Ted Cruz’s support from the anti-Trump crowd on the right has made pundits wonder whether Trump is truly supported by the conservative base, or if media-driven momentum and incurious, perhaps bitter Americans who are usually apathetic about voting are driving the Trump surge. This concept is underscored by Ted Cruz’s CPAC straw poll win. However, Donald Trump’s win in the Louisiana primary on Super Saturday proves that Trump can, in fact, win a “closed primary” — a state primary race that is closed to all but registered Republican voters. The Louisiana win is an important one for Trump because his conservative detractors cannot blame his triumph on independent or unaffiliated voters, nor can they blame it on Democrats attempting to sabotage the Republican primary.
[Image courtesy of Alex Wong/Getty Images]