Five reasons Cruz, not Trump, is your real GOP frontrunner.
But going forward, Cruz will increasingly be the Republican standard-bearer rather than Trump. Here’s why that’s going to become apparent in the coming days.
1. As Margaret Thatcher said, first you win the argument. Then you win the election. Cruz is winning the argument. He won it convincingly in Wisconsin, a state that on its face should not have been his to win. Cruz beat Trump badly, 65-28, with voters who consider themselves “very conservative.” But he also beat him 47-36 among “somewhat conservatives” and was within 11 points of Trump among moderates. Cruz also tied Trump at 40 among independent voters in the Wisconsin GOP primary, which is telling — Trump has won convincingly among interlopers in open GOP primaries prior to Tuesday.
That’s evidence Cruz is beginning to attract votes from people outside his voting base. He certainly needs to do more of that, but we’re not in a general election yet and his competition isn’t Hillary Clinton yet — it’s Trump.
2. Cruz isn’t going to the Establishment. The Establishment is coming to him. It’s clear they don’t want to, and this week is a last-gasp of the Stupid Party inside the Beltway as it attempts to gain some leverage over Cruz by planting stories about a “fresh face” parachuting in as the nominee in a brokered convention. But despite Cruz giving his Senate colleagues the finger when he was asked to apologize for having called majority leader Mitch McConnell a liar over the Export-Import Bank being reauthorized in violation of a promise made to the Senate GOP caucus, he’s attracting a small modicum of support there. He’s gaining more support in the House, where he always had some. He’s picking up support from several of his former presidential opponents — Rick Perry, Carly Fiorina, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham.
3. The East Coast isn’t as solid for Trump as Trump thinks. He’s going to win New York, but New York isn’t a winner-take-all state. Only 14 of the 95 delegates at stake are based on the statewide vote; the other 81 are allocated, three apiece, in the state’s 27 congressional districts. If Trump can top 50 percent in those districts and statewide he’ll capture the three (in districts where he manages a majority) or 14 (for the statewide vote). But if he’s short, the delegates will be apportioned on a proportional basis to candidates receiving 20 percent.
4. If Trump can’t dominate California, this will go to a floor fight at the convention. Exactly what the all-important Golden State will do on June 7 is a question; there are polls showing it a dead heat and there are polls with Trump boasting a lead of seven or eight points. One imagines that momentum between now and June will tell the tale there, but a key factor in that momentum is campaign organization built for the long haul.
5. It’s going to be a Cruz convention, and anybody who thinks otherwise isn’t paying attention. Even Trump knows it; if he wasn’t becoming aware that Cruz has been “stealing” delegates Trump thought he’d won in primaries, he wouldn’t be howling about it. And the discussions this week, fueled in some measure by Trump’s post-Wisconsin statement about Cruz being a Trojan Horse to allow a floor fight to produce a parachuted-in Establishment nominee, are bunk. The Establishment doesn’t control the Republican convention like it does on the Democrat side with the multitudes of elected-official superdelegates; in Cleveland it will be the delegates who control the convention. And the GOP delegates, as we’ve seen, are coming up Cruz people. News reports of Cruz’s delegate operation bearing unforeseen fruit have popped up in Massachusetts, South Carolina, Arizona, Tennessee, Louisiana, Virginia and other states.
The media is still giving Trump wall-to-wall coverage as though he’s the frontrunner. But he isn’t, really. The man holding the best cards in this contest is Cruz.
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