He may not be liked by anyone in the Senate, but Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has started to get love notes from a host of Americans in the form of votes throughout all portions of the country.
As the second major Tuesday primary closed, Cruz was the only candidate able to beat Trump — in Idaho — and came closest to the frontrunner in the three other states.
Now, the party insiders are starting to look at him as the man to stop the bombastic Trump.
During a rally in Miami the day after the primary, former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina joined the senator onstage as she endorsed his campaign.
“It’s time to united behind Ted Cruz,” the former Hewlitt Packard CEO said. ‘Other people in our party are kind of horrified by Donald Trump. Here’s the thing, we’re not going to beat Donald Trump by having our party tsk tsk over our voters. We’re going to have to beat Donald Trump at the ballot box.”
Calling Cruz a leader and a reformer willing to ‘take on the status quo in Washington,” Fiorina is just one of several party members who are starting to ditch (Florida Sen. Marco) Rubio in anticipation of next week’s primary in Florida. Despite his focus there, Rubio has struggled to edge out Trump in the polls and others are wondering if he has a chance to prevent the real estate mogul from nabbing all 99 delegates in the winner-take-all state.
“(Cruz” seems to be the only guy who’s got some momentum, and is probably the best situated if there is anybody out there to beat Trump,” said Austin Barbour, a former Jeb Bush supporter and nephew to former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, in an interview with Politico. “That’s why there are many people like me — Ted Cruz wouldn’t have been our first choice, but as we go through the process, we’re reevaluating our vote, and he seems to be the guy at the top of the list.
Barour and Fiorina have looked at the delegate math and see that Rubio’s subpar performance on Super Tuesday as well as the past Saturday will not bode well for the man who nabbed a strong number of endorsements after finishing in third during the South Carolina primary. Rubio has only won Minnesota and Puerto Rico and has placed third or worse in 13 of the past 20 races. He did not reach the threshold to win any delegates in high stakes Michigan or Mississippi on Tuesday.
Charles Foster, a Bush supporter out of Texas who worked on Jeb’s national finance team, echoed similar comments to Barbour’s.
“Most people now think Ted’s the best vehicle to defeat Trump. I would say some are enthusiastic for Ted, some are just saying, ‘OK, Ted’s not my first choice, but anyone that can beat Trump, I’ll support.'”
While Cruz has continued to win states, and several by large margins, he still has to contend with his status as a rebel and instigator against the Republican Party. That led many prominent Republicans to try and stomach a Trump candidacy during the Iowa caucus, when Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad spoke out against Cruz regarding the senator’s stance on corn-based ethanol, which was followed by former Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas to say that Trump has the negotiating skills that could work in the party. Dole has since endorsed Rubio in the primary.
But, with the antics of Trump growing to include a refusal to denounce the KKK on CNN prior to Super Tuesday, references to his genitalia during a televised debate the Thursday afterwards, and a refusal to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference the next day, it has become harder for Republicans to support the outspoken businessman. That has left the choice between Trump and Cruz, with action moving towards Cruz in the recent days.
The biggest indicator that the establishment party members were starting to line up for Cruz came before the polls closed on Tuesday, when Neil Bush, the son of President George H.W. Bush and brother to President George W. Bush and Jeb Bush, appeared on a roster of new members of Cruz’s national finance committee. This was even more surprising considering the animosity that has grown from both Bush and Cruz camps since the latter’s Senate campaign.
And it hasn’t stopped. Foster continues to reach out to Bush backers in hopes they will swing towards the Texan. So far he has added Beil Bush and Chase Untermeyer, a former ambassador and past administration official under both presidents Bush.
This shift doesn’t help Rubio, who has struggled to keep up the momentum after nearly beating Trump in Virginia and winning in Minnesota on Super Tuesday. Rubio’s actions, which are a reflection of Trump’s unorthodox campaign tactics, have turned off on some voters who have struggled to support the one-term senator. And while some would-be supporters are questioning his stance as the anti-Trump and establishment choice, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has seen some benefit of his regional campaign tactics.
Kasich has finished in second place in Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire, came within 0.6 percentage points from second in Michigan, and has set his eyes on winning his home state of Ohio on March 15 as a springboard to becoming the new favored choice among more mainline conservatives. But having failed to win one state and still running behind Trump in Ohio has left many wondering if he should continue his campaign. Others, though, see the point in staying in until at least March 15. A lose from Trump in either Ohio or Florida, or both, would almost certainly force a contested convention.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense for anyone to drop out,” said Scott Jennings, a former aide to George W. Bush. “If part of your long-term strategic calculation is to force a contested convention, why would you ever drop out?”
For the time being, though, other Republicans are holding out for Rubio or Kasich to rebound after March 15, supporting either of the more palatable candidates instead of Cruz, though some are starting to brace themselves to supporting Cruz.
Stan Hubbard, a major donor in the party, has already given money to an anti-Trump super PAC. But the Minnesota media owner had many reservations towards supporting Cruz, citing his overt religious overtones in his political message. “I don’t think religion has any place in politics,” he has said.
But he has recently admitted that he will consider Cruz as his candidate of choice if the senator is the only one left standing against Trump.
“He wasn’t my favorite guy, but I’ll say one thing about Cruz. I don’t think he tells lies. I don’t like liars,” he said. “I have to put that aside and say ‘what kind of a president would he be?’ He’d do a lot of things that I believe in, I’ll tell you that.”