Cruz Beats Trump But Next Steps Unclear

The Texan wins a series of presidential contests against the New York mogul, but where does he go from here?

Republican senator Ted Cruz of Texas gives a speech in Henderson, Nevada, February 21
Republican senator Ted Cruz of Texas gives a speech in Henderson, Nevada, February 21 (Gage Skidmore)

Texas senator Ted Cruz all but defeated the frontrunner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, Donald Trump, in a series of nominating contests on Saturday.

Although Trump won a plurality of the votes in Kentucky and Louisiana, he only secured 49 delegates in total against 64 for Cruz. The Texan won the smaller contests in Kansas and Maine and benefited from proportionate delegate allocation rules in the bigger states.

Trump still leads with 378 out of the 1,237 delegates needed to claim the nomination in Cleveland this summer. But Cruz is not far behind. He has 295 delegates pledged to him.


Bloomberg View columnist Jonathan Bernstein writes that Saturday’s contests provided more evidence that Trump can’t increase his vote share even as rivals drop out.

He took a cumulative 33 percent of the vote in the four states, peaking at about 40 percent of the vote in Louisiana and receiving only 23 percent in the Kansas caucuses. In other words, he hasn’t proved yet he can win — or for that matter even be competitive — if he needs to get more than half the vote.

But the same could be said for Cruz — who has one more problem.

As we reported on Friday, the rest of the states that vote this month have not been kind to hardline conservatives like Cruz in the past. Florida, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio tend to prefer more pragmatic politicians.


This is what John Kasich and Marco Rubio, who have so far only secured 157 delegates between them, are waiting around for.

We suggested last week that Kasich may be running to be a broker at the convention that is scheduled to take place in his home state of Ohio in July. If no single candidate wins a majority of the delegates beforehand, he could play a role in deciding who wins.

There is no such consolation prize for Rubio.

He couldn’t win the primary in Virginia on Tuesday, which was arguably the most establishment-friendly state up to now. Polls put him 20 points behind Trump in Florida since the start of this year.

The Atlantic Sentinel has consistently argued that Rubio is overrated. Republicans who make a living out of politics like him, because all he does is put a fresh face on the policies that have failed the party in two presidential elections in a row. His social views are reactionary. His foreign policy is more alarmist and blusterous than George W. Bush’s. His economic policy is a throwback to the 1980s.

Joe Scarborough, a former Florida congressman who now hosts a morning talk show on MSNBC, argues in The Washington Post that Rubio should save his political career while he still can and drop out to run for reelection as a senator instead. If he loses his home state to Trump, “the once promising senator would be forced to live out his professional life as a Beltway lobbyist,” according to Scarborough, “or worse yet, endure the grim existence of being a cable news host.”

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