While Ted Cruz won an impressive 13-point victory over Donald Trump in Wisconsin, he still faces an uphill battle for the Republican presidential nomination.
Can Ted Cruz keep his momentum?
For starters, given that there is not another primary for two weeks, Cruz does not have the advantage of taking his momentum right into another state battleground. In contrast, frontrunner Donald Trump was able to parlay his February 9 New Hampshire primary victory into wins in South Carolina on February 20, Nevada on February 23, and the majority of states on “Super Tuesday,” March 1.
Also, Cruz’s momentum from Wisconsin could be lost when New York votes on Tuesday, April 19. According to the Real Clear Politics average of polls, Trump leads Ohio Governor John Kasich by an average of 31 percent, 53-22. Cruz comes in third with 18.6 percent.
There are 95 delegates up for grabs in New York State.
Cruz gained notice in earlier debates when he spoke derisively of Trump’s “New York values.” The Texas senator was forced to explain what he meant in an interview with ABC News.
“They’re the values of liberal Democratic politicians like Andrew Cuomo, like Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer, like Charlie Rangel, all of whom Donald Trump has supported, given tens of thousands of dollars throughout the years. If you want to know what liberal democratic values are follow Donald Trump’s checkbook. He’s been funding these policies.”
The following week, April 26, features primaries in five northeastern states, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island — a region which seems to favor Trump. Cruz does not lead in any of those states, and in Pennsylvania, the largest prize with 71 delegates, Trump leads Cruz by 13.4 percent in the Real Clear Politics average of polls.
What is worse for Cruz is that Kasich, who has zero probability of capturing the nomination, eats significantly into Cruz’s totals. For instance, while the April 4 Quinnipiac University poll shows Trump leading Cruz 39-30, Kasich has 24 percent — meaning that if he were to bow out, Cruz might win there, and so increase his delegate count.
Trump still leads Cruz in delegates
There is also the delegate count to consider. While Cruz had a net gain of 30 delegates in Wisconsin, he still trails Trump, 743-517, with 1,237 needed to win the nomination. Given his current standing in the polls, it is unlikely that Cruz will chip away at that lead before May.
GOP establishment: still cool to Cruz?
In spite of Cruz being the last block standing in the way of a Trump nomination, the GOP establishment still has not warmed to him.
Perhaps most notably, Florida Senator Marco Rubio still has not endorsed Cruz, despite their mutual goal of stopping Trump. When asked by CNN about Cruz’s Wisconsin victory, Rubio never mentioned Cruz.
“I’m not talking about the campaign today other than I’m pleased with the result in Wisconsin that Donald Trump didn’t win.”
When pressed about his earlier statements that he would drive across the country to defeat Trump, Rubio said, “I’m not having anything to announce on that today other than to tell you that I obviously think if Donald Trump is the nominee of our party, it will fracture it. And that’s all I’m prepared to say.”
CNN noted, however, that Rubio is holding onto his delegates, which benefits Cruz.
In an interview with Fox Business, Rep. Louie Gohmert said, “No way Ted Cruz is the establishment choice.” He added that while South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham has endorsed Cruz and even held a fundraiser for him, it was “begrudgingly.”
As for Graham, his congratulatory tweet for Cruz seemed tepid, and focused on stopping Trump, rather than getting Cruz nominated.
In an interview with Fox Business, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich intimated that Trump’s mistakes have made Cruz look good by comparison, saying, “Trump has now normalized Cruz.”
Gingrich added that there is little chance of someone other than Trump or Cruz securing the GOP nomination.
CNN noted that thus far, only two U.S. Senators have endorsed Cruz: Mike Lee of Utah, who is an ideological soulmate of Cruz, and Graham.
Is there hope for Cruz?
In spite of all of this, Cruz can point to the fact that he overcame early dismal polling in Wisconsin to win there. For instance, Trump led Cruz by 10 points in a Marquette University poll, conducted February 18-21.
Lastly, Cruz stands to benefit from the greatest intangible of all in the race: Donald Trump. The frontrunner hurt himself when he re-tweeted an already controversial tweet featuring a glamorous shot of his wife, Melania, juxtaposed with an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz.
Trump also came across poorly in a much-hyped interview with conservative radio talk show host Charlie Sykes.
The next two weeks will be very telling to see if (a) Donald Trump commits any more gaffes, and (b) Ted Cruz can capitalize on them. If he does not, then Trump will be that much closer to the GOP nomination.
[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]