Ted Cruz ran for the Republican presidential nomination by promising the most pure form of ideological conservatism and by attacking the power brokers in his own party's establishment. It didn't get him far enough.
Cruz dropped out of the race on Tuesday night after losing in Indiana, a state on which he'd pinned much of his campaign's hopes, his campaign manager has told multiple news outlets.
As with all the other failed Republican candidates, Cruz's candidacy was swallowed whole by the rise of Donald Trump, who now looks all but guaranteed to become the GOP nominee.
Cruz couldn't compete against Trump's broad appeal
Cruz won the Iowa caucus in a crowded field and in a year with record Republican turnout, upsetting Trump.
But Cruz's path would soon be obstructed by states less willing to support his hard-right platform, and he suffered losses in New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, and then across multiple Southern states on Super Tuesday.
An upset win in Wisconsin in early April and several victories in caucus and convention states gave Cruz some hope that even if he could no longer win a majority on his own, he could still block Trump from winning a delegate majority and force a contested convention.
But a dominant Trump performance in the six Northeastern states that voted in late April put Cruz on the downswing again. And his favorability among Republican voters began to plummet.
Cruz focused on Tuesday's Indiana primary as his last hope to turn things around. Here's Vox's Andrew Prokop on why Indiana became so crucial to Cruz's hopes:
Yet Indiana is so important because it was one of just a few remaining states that looked like they could send either a big delegate haul or nothing at all to Trump, thus either greatly helping or somewhat complicating his path to a majority.
After all, Cruz had recently won a solid victory in Wisconsin, and Trump has performed unevenly in the Midwest. Cruz had at least been kinda close in polls. And Indiana allots its delegates winner-take-all, both statewide and by congressional district, so even a narrow defeat for Trump could mean missing out on most of its 57 delegates.
But if those delegates instead go into Trump's column, then considering how the rest of the calendar breaks down, he'll have a relatively easy path toward his majority, rather than a difficult one. He looks very strong in West Virginia and New Jersey, and is assured of some delegates from proportional states of Oregon, Washington, and New Mexico.
Trump went after "Lyin' Ted"
Cruz's big victory in Iowa would also be almost instantly dampened by an accusation that developed into a long-running theme of the campaign: that Cruz's staff engaged in underhanded and dishonest tactics.
Here's a small sample of a few recent times Cruz has been accused of lying on the campaign trail:
- Ben Carson accused Cruz's team of practicing "dirty tricks" during the Iowa caucuses by incorrectly telling voters that Carson had dropped out of the race.
- Also during the Iowa vote, Cruz sent out controversial mailers marked "VOTING VIOLATION" to encourage voters to go to the polls — mailers that reportedly contained inaccurate voter information.
- Cruz was then called out in unusually stark terms by CNN for misrepresenting the story during a Republican debate.
- Cruz's campaign also recently released a bizarre Photoshopped image of Barack Obama and Marco Rubio shaking hands, according to Mediaite.
- Cruz fired his communications director in February after he publicized a factually inaccurate video that purported to show Marco Rubio insulting the Bible. The video in fact showed Rubio praising the Bible, but incorrectly captioned Rubio's difficult-to-hear remarks as stating the opposite.
Trump saw the attack resonating, and took advantage of it. "You are the single biggest liar," Trump said to Cruz at one debate, according to CBS News. "You are the single biggest liar. This guy lied — let me tell you, this guy lied about Ben Carson when he took votes away from Ben Carson in Iowa. And he just continues."
All this was on top of the fact that in his quest to be a nationally recognized figure, he bulldozed his Republican colleagues along the way, making him one of the most disliked figures in Washington.
Cruz showed that there's a large constituency of voters receptive to his strident message
Cruz staked out maximally conservative positions on most major issues, some of which are based on far-right economic theories or rely on wishful thinking about international affairs. Those include Cruz's plans for immigration (accelerate deportations; suspend H1B visas), national security (arm ISIS's enemies; consider US ground troops), and taxes (eliminate corporate income tax; impose a 19 percent sales tax).
As Vox's Matt Yglesias points out, Cruz's positions formed the most extreme agenda of the 2016 campaign. But this approach is as much rhetorical as it is substantive; Cruz complemented his far-right policy positions with a vision of America that necessitated extreme measures.
The New York Times' David Brooks captured Cruz's "apocalyptic" approach in a column this January:
Cruz's speeches are marked by what you might call pagan brutalism. There is not a hint of compassion, gentleness and mercy. Instead, his speeches are marked by a long list of enemies, and vows to crush, shred, destroy, bomb them. When he is speaking in a church the contrast between the setting and the emotional tone he sets is jarring.
Cruz lays down an atmosphere of apocalyptic fear.
Brooks noted that this picture of America is "ridiculous" — at odds with the reality of a country that has seen employment gains, falling crime, and a steadily improving economy.
But if Cruz's campaign proved anything, it's that this message resonates powerfully with millions of voters at the ballot box. And that suggests a real constituency exists for him — or for other aspiring conservative leaders — to rely on in the future, even if Trump's proved more popular this year.