Ted Cruz is having a moment to shine.
The Texas senator has become the favorite to win Tuesday’s primary in Wisconsin, which would be huge for his presidential campaign.
He’s seen a GOP establishment that despised him warm to his presidential campaign and showed off his policy chops and a sense of humor during a Wednesday night appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
At a CNN town hall earlier in the week, Cruz had a well-received moment when he opened up about losing his sister to heroin addiction.
Sweeter still is that Cruz’s shining moments have come amidst a rocky stretch for GOP front-runner Donald Trump, who this week saw his campaign manager charged with simple battery and who then stumbled badly in an MSNBC interview over abortion.
Both incidents raised new doubts about whether Trump can win over female voters in the fall, giving ammunition to those who argue the GOP should nominate someone else to the White House at their convention — even if Trump is the delegate leader.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Thursday found Trump would be the most unpopular major-party nominee in the modern era, while surveys testing a hypothetical match-up between Trump and Hillary Clinton show the Democratic front-runner thumping him in poll after poll.
While Cruz trails Trump in delegates, it’s not clear the front-runner can win the 1,237 delegates necessary to clinch the GOP nomination before the convention.
Republicans say that if Cruz can force a contested convention, this week has drastically improved his odds of triumphing.
“If I had placed a bet last week, it would be on Trump getting to 1,237,” said American Principles Project president Frank Cannon, who has not endorsed. “Now I think it’s more likely Trump falls short, and that has everything to do with Cruz’s performance over the last week in comparison to Trump’s general unsteadiness.”
Cruz has never been a sympathetic figure to a GOP establishment he has repeatedly battled, but that changed a bit last week as his wife Heidi was pulled into an ugly spat.
The Trump campaign tweeted an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz next to a glamour shot of Melenia Trump, a former model. Additionally, a story in the National Enquirer accusing Cruz of having affairs with five women also popped up, which Cruz blamed on the GOP front-runner. Trump said he had nothing to do with it.
The fight over the candidates’ wives was clearly a turning point in the race for Cruz, who days later suggested he might not support Trump if he won the GOP nomination.
On Kimmel’s show, he was able to crack wise over his fight with Trump, however.
“If I were in my car and getting ready to reverse and saw Donald in the backup camera, I’m not confident which pedal I’d push,” he joked.
It was a good moment for a candidate who has struggled to present himself as the kind of person you’d want to grab a beer with, and it won good reviews.
“Finally, after months of debates, countless campaign stops and endless interviews, GOP voters were able to see Cruz as a guy who, if not the most obvious choice for a beer and a friendly chat, wouldn’t be a half-bad one if you gave him a chance,” wrote conservative pundit Buck Sexton in an editorial for CNN.
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