“Friends, Republicans, Pulse readers, lend me your ears;
“I come to bury Cruz, not to praise him.”
Last night, Donald Trump won everywhere. The margins were absolutely staggering: 29 points in Connecticut. 31 points in Maryland. 35 points in Pennsylvania. 39 points in Rhode Island. 40 points in Delaware. He didn’t finish below 55 percent in a single state.
These are not margins that can be explained away by geography or demographics. These margins are a symptom of a campaign that has now concluded.
Trump won 109 of 118 pledged delegates available last night, not counting Pennsylvania’s 54 unpledged delegates, bringing his delegate total to 954. He is now just 283 delegates away from clinching the nomination (1,237) with 488 delegates remaining, and again, that is assuming Trump wins none of Pennsylvania’s 54 unpledged delegates, which is a faulty assumption to make.
More reports on the allegiances of Pennsylvania’s 54 unpledged delegates are likely to emerge in the coming days, but a CNN report yesterday gave us some insight. CNN interviewed most of the delegate candidates, and of the candidates, 25 percent said they would support Trump, and 42 percent said they would support their district’s choice. If this polling holds true with the 54 elected delegates, Trump should win approximately 36 of the 54 delegates’ votes on the first ballot at the Republican convention. That would bring his total delegate total to 990, needing just 247 of the 488 remaining delegates to clinch the nomination.
Trump has an opportunity to slam the door on this race next week in Indiana, where 57 delegates will be up for grabs. 30 of those delegates will be determined on a winner-take-all basis, while the other 27 will be allocated by congressional district winner — three delegates for each of Indiana’s nine congressional districts.
Right now, polling in Indiana is pretty close. A poll taken a week ago by CBS News/YouGov gave Trump a 40-35 lead over Cruz. Another poll by Fox News gave Trump a 41-33 lead.
Indiana is an absolute must-win for Ted Cruz. If Trump manages to win the statewide vote and grab most of the congressional districts — let’s say he wins 48 delegates — he would only need 199 of the remaining 431 delegates to win the nomination. That would be a cakewalk.
But let’s set delegate math aside for a second.
What the heck happened to Ted Cruz?
One major problem was Cruz’s messaging. Since Marco Rubio dropped out of the race, Cruz’s message has been strictly about winning. “I’m winning delegates. I’m playing the game right. I can beat Trump because he doesn’t know how to play.” That’s all well and good, but voters don’t care about that. What about a message to fix the problems of wage stagnation, economic decline, and civil unrest? What about a message of turning the establishment on its head?
Cruz, for whatever reason, shied away from those topics in recent weeks. Instead, Cruz focused on Process. Gamesmanship. Winning.
I don’t think that resonated with the GOP electorate. It probably backfired. Voters wanted a plan for the future. They wanted someone who could fix Washington. They wanted a leader. Instead, Cruz spent the last several weeks sounding like something he truthfully is not — an establishment politician solely focused on winning an election.
Cruz, and frankly the entire GOP field, made the mistake of thinking “Not Trump” was enough for voters. They were dead wrong. Voters liked certain aspects of what Trump brought to the table. They liked that he rejected the establishment, connected with their concerns, and conveyed strength with a powerful message.
Voters weren’t looking for an anti-Trump. They were looking for a better Trump.
Maybe Cruz can turn it around, tune up his message, and win Indiana in convincing fashion. Maybe it’s not over.
But it’s pretty much over.
“You all did love him once, not without cause:
“What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
“O judgment! thou art fled to brutish Trumps,
“And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
“My heart is in the coffin there with Cruz,
“And I must pause till it come back to me.”
Jon Schweppe is the Communications Director for American Principles Project. Follow him on Twitter @JonSchweppe.