By Ken Herman
What Ted Cruz once counted on to be his really super Super Tuesday melted into a Good-Enough Tuesday that kept his presidential campaign alive but in search of an increasingly improbable pathway to the GOP nomination.
Cruz won Texas, Okla- homa and Alaska and justified a victory speech. Perhaps more importantly, Cruz’s wins came as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s unimpressive primary performance continued, freeing Cruz to claim the mantle Tuesday night as the last Republican who can stop Donald Trump.
“After tonight, we have seen that our campaign is the only campaign that has beaten, that can beat and that will beat Donald Trump,” Cruz said in a blistering Tuesday night attack on the frontrunner. “I congratulate Donald Trump on his victories tonight, but we’re the only campaign that has beaten Donald Trump once, twice, three times.”
The fourth Cruz win (in addition to his earlier victory in Iowa) was announced early Wednesday in Alaska. Cruz also has lost to Trump a bunch, but remains confident of future wins if he can get Trump into one-on-one battles. And Cruz’s claim as the only Repub who has beaten Trump lost some of its clout later Tuesday night when Rubio won Minnesota.
Tuesday’s multi-state results continued the trend that was not supposed to be for Cruz, the outsider who’s been out-outsidered by someone who many people still consider to be outside the realm of reasonable presidential material. But many GOP voters on Tuesday expressed anger about the state of their lives and our union by voting for Trump, which, despite its potential global impact, probably beats kicking the dog.
On Tuesday in Georgia, one of the first states where voting ended, exit polls showed 90 percent of GOP voters said they are “dissatisfied” or “angry” about the federal government. Trump got 41 percent of that vote, topping Cruz by 17 points.
For Cruz, the campaign continued Wednesday with two events in Kansas, while the wizards of odds still make him a long shot at putting his campaign back on a winning trajectory.
Cruz’ Super Tuesday party was at The Redneck Country Club, a Houston-area honky-tonk featuring a sign proclaiming “Through this door walk the world’s finest rednecks.” I’m unaware of the metrics used to measure that.
Tuesday’s voting came as the GOP contest moved from the momentum phase to the delegate-counting mathematics phase. It also came as the the race devolved into the so’s-your-mama phase between Trump and Rubio, an embarrassing low point, even by U.S. political standards.
Trump is doing what Trump does and what he would do as president. Far more troubling was watching Rubio’s recent morph into who his handlers think he needs to be. The off-putting character they came up with is as middle-schoolish as Trump, complete with personal insults about hair style, skin tone and body-part size.
Cruz gets points for largely staying out of that fray.
Super Tuesday may have gone a long way toward setting up a Hillary Clinton-Trump showdown. A Clinton win would be viewed by some as a nostalgic trip to the political past. A Trump win would be a courageous foray into the unknown.
But, despite Trump’s most excellent Super Tuesday, primary season continues. With the insults of February behind us, let’s hope this campaign can evolve into the ideas of March.
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