The real estate mogul turned reality TV star who launched his campaign by calling Mexicans “rapists” and joked about his dick size in a nationally televised debate became the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee for president on Tuesday.
If you feel a slight, almost guilty tinge of satisfaction in that, maybe that’s because Donald Trump’s pummeling of Ted Cruz at the polls in Indiana Tuesday night means Texas’ junior senator might finally slither off the national stage he’s so awkwardly occupied this primary season.
“From the beginning, I have said that I will continue on as long as there is a viable path to victory. Tonight, I am sorry to say it appears that path has been closed,” Cruz told supporters. "With a heavy heart but with boundless optimism for the long-term future of our nation, we are suspending our campaign.”
The move comes after the curious decision to name a running mate last week. Not only had Cruz’s campaign failed to clinch the nomination, but it was reeling from a string of losses along the east coast (guess those sneering "New York values" comments didn't help) when he picked a vice president – a candidate that early primary voters had already rejected, no less.
Things have looked down for Cruz about as much as they’ve looked up during his campaign. Yes, Cruz made an early splash in the famously conservative Iowa caucuses. But he struggled through much of the rest of the primary calendar, coming out of Super Tuesday with wins in only his home state of Texas and Oklahoma. Meanwhile Trump cleaned up the south, along the way gaining the support of groups ranging from the Border Patrol union to white supremacists to the megachurch pastor who wants “the meanest, toughest son of a gun I can find” in the White House.
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At one point in the race, many wondered why Cruz still hung on, even as he played the clumsy, whiny little sibling to Marco Rubio and Trump, whose shouting matches dominated many of the GOP debates. After Rubio dropped out, Cruz got the occasional jolt, as in Wisconsin last month. So Cruz hung on, even when loss after loss to Trump meant he (and some other guy you’ve probably never heard of named John Kasich) was mathematically incapable of reaching the number of delegates needed to win the nomination.
The remarkable thing about Cruz’s run for president is how far he went with so little support, even as the GOP establishment collectively freaked out over the very real possibility (now virtual certainty) of Trump becoming the GOP nominee. It couldn’t have helped that along the way Cruz’s campaign reinforced his reputation for being a cutthroat political operative and an all around unlikable guy. At one point, he even awkwardly acknowledged the sentiment, saying, “If you want someone to grab a beer with, I may not be that guy. But if you want someone to drive you home, I will get the job done and I will get you home.” Cruz’s long record of shit-slinging has obviously left him very few friends in power. His Senate colleagues have said that if you killed Cruz on the Senate floor, “and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.” Last week, former U.S Speaker of the House John Boehner called Cruz “Lucifer in the flesh.”
While the #NeverTrump movement had gained a new sense of urgency in recent weeks, it never coalesced behind Cruz, perhaps because his politics are even more genuinely radical than Trump’s. Or, as Jim Schutze at our sister paper the Dallas Observer put it: “Trump is just embarrassing. Cruz is scary.”
So Cruz’s departure from the race leaves us with a GOP nominee for president who called for a ban on Muslims entering the country and talked openly about having the hots for his daughter. Sure, that may be alarming, but the alternative wasn’t exactly much better.