Is Ted Cruz Overplaying His Hand?
The battle between the two front runners in the Republican Party took a decisive turn in the direction of Mr. Trump last week with his sweep of all five states that were up for grabs. Not only did Trump win them all, but he did so in impressive fashion, taking Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, in a landslide. This rout was significant because Trump received over 50% of the vote in all the contests. After months of winning primary races by smaller margins, Trump soundly thrashed both Ted Cruz and John Kasich by more than 30 percentage points. What was even more shocking was that Kasich took second place in four of the five races. Cruz seems to be losing momentum as the race comes to a close and his dream of a contested convention will most likely never come to fruition.
Wide Support for Trump
The support for Mr. Trump spanned some of the dividing lines that have characterized the Republican race up until now; He won among the affluent and college-educated as well as with blue-collar voters and those with no more than a high school diploma. Coming off a huge victory in his home state of New York, where Mr. Trump took over 60% of the vote with Kasich again coming in second, Trump took that momentum into last Tuesday's races. Momentum certainly is playing a huge role as the margins of victory grow; it's as if the voters can see he'll be the nominee and are turning support his way. Trump supporters form a powerful populist coalition that's uniting groups who in the past would never come together. His message of America First resonates with people who for much too long have lived in a state of perpetual fear over jobs, the economy, and overburdened with regulations.
Trump still has to perform well in Indiana to cement the nomination; a state which Cruz claims will be his, but if the polls stand up, Trump will win handily. There are only ten states left, and Indiana is the largest delegate count until June 7th, when the remaining states go to the polls. The stakes are high for Cruz as its his Alamo. He even went so far as to announce Carly Fiorina as his VP and running mate in hopes of using her to turn the tide. Announcing a VP this early in the race in unheard of, especially by a candidate which statistically has no real chance of getting the nomination. This throw of the dice is a desperate attempt to grab last minute media headlines by Cruz. Cruz also tried a so-called alliance with John Kasich that started busting at the seams almost as soon as it was announced.
Ted Cruz had been doing an excellent job of scooping up unpledged delegates across the country; to the level that many have questioned Trump's campaign team's credibility. The Cruz campaign slid in behind the primaries in multiple states and grabbed delegates that were up for grabs, leading to Trump crying foul more than once. Senator Cruz didn't break any laws and there was no trickery involved, just good old fashioned politicing. Cruz claims to have large blocks of unpledged delegates locked up and firmly in his camp, but only on paper.
The Wavering Begins
Those "Cruz friendly" delegates are unbound up until they cast their vote at the convention, and they appear to hold power to shift things one way or the other in the first round of voting should no candidate make the minimum requirement. Yet, Cruz's strength with these unpledged delegates is where many now think he's overplaying his hand. GOP delegates are party-first people usually and although they may have a favorite candidate, are not likely to try anything drastic unless Trump is no where near the 1237 threshold. With Cruz struggling and coming in third place in most of the latest primaries, his hold on the unpledged delegates loosens. The delegates can see the will of "we the people" has firmly set up camp with Mr. Trump and realize rocking the boat if he's close would amount to ripping the GOP apart, perhaps permanently. With Trump favored in all of the remaining contests, he should reach the threshold before the convention, but odds are that even if he's close, the unpledged delegates will push him across the finish line for the sake of the Party.