According to superficially obvious metrics, Ted Cruz should have been looking to pull off another media-hyped full or partial success in Indiana: it’s a Midwestern state, the only part of the country apart from a handful of sparsely populated Rocky Mountain States and Texas that has proved even half receptive to his image. And he was endorsed by its governor, Mike Pence, only last week.
Instead, at the time of this writing the most recent major opinion poll from the Wall Street Journal, NBC and Marist on Sunday put him a whopping 15 points behind Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.
Most obviously, six northwestern primaries happened over the past two weeks. And Cruz lost big in all of them, usually running third far behind even Ohio Governor John Kasich.
But Cruz knew well in advance he didn’t have a chance against Trump in those states. Something else happened.
The actual experience of defeat, as opposed to the detached intellectual assessment of it did Cruz in.
For it exposed his true personality, his inner soul. And what was exposed was not so much ugly as hysterical – in the sense of hysteria.
Cruz was annihilated by Trump in New York State. Then he went down by similarly humiliating margins, rejected also by the solid upper-middle class Republicans of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut and even tiny Rhode Island.
Yet none of these defeats, every one of them anticipated long in advance, were fatal.
It was the three mortal wounds Cruz inflicted on himself in the space of the following week that did him in.
First, he picked a running mate when he was on the verge of defeat – a candidate who did not have the single thread of a coat-tail to her name – Carly Fiorina, a relentless social climber to privilege whose professional career has been defined by one total catastrophe after another.
Second, Cruz gave a speech on April 26 clearly given under intense emotional pressure, Cruz went wild: He hit out – not just at NewYork City values – but at the entire populations of the five Northeastern states that had rejected him.
When The People render their verdict, American national politicians are not supposed to amputate them from the American Body Politic on the spot. Cruz made Joe McCarthy sound inclusive.
Third came the ludicrous electoral pact with Kasich: It was an even bigger disaster than the announcement of Fiorina as a running mate. For the very next day, Kasich, loth to let any of his empty stardustdreams go, announced that despite the pact he was going to campaign in Indiana, Cruz’s make or break state anyway.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have had their share of humiliating defeats and rejections already in this electoral cycle. Both of them just gritted their teeth, grimaced or grinned – and moved straight on to the next state.
Above all, they stuck to their game plans.
They showed, if not grace under pressure, then certainly steadiness under pressure –the most crucial attribute the American people look for in any potential president.
But Ted Cruz did not show steadiness or grace: The crucible of the primary process finally melted him as it has so done to so many others before him.
Cruz was exposed as prone to panic and hysteria, a reckless, high-rolling gambler. His desperate alliance with Kasich contradicted every claimed core principle he claimed to be running under.
For John Kasich has run as exactly the kind of insider that Cruz had vowed to run against. Kasich is exactly the kind of big business, free market, scrap all religious issues, big tent, moderate Republican that Cruz has railed against throughout his campaign.
Cruz devalued every word he has spoken on the campaign trail by embracing Kasich.
This would have been the case even if Kasich had honored the pact and acted with maturity and dignity. Instead, the Ohio governor revealed his true self as a spoiled, petulant little brat. And he pulled Cruz down to the same level with him.
The Fiorina pick was equally ill judged.
People retire from presidential campaigns when the momentum turns against them.
Instead, Cruz made a mockery of the vice presidential selection process.
He picked a candidate with vastly higher negatives than his own: A candidate who had shown no support or coattails among Republican voters whatsoever.
Fiorina was a former CEO so inept she had been kicked out of her post as CEO of Hewlett-Packard. She lost her 2010 race for a California Senate seat by a landslide. And she almost never broke double digits even in opinion polls then did far worse in terms of real votes.
Reaching out to her was a whopper in judgment comparable to standing on the bridge of the sinking Titanic and calling on the ghost of the Mary Celeste to save you.
The very idea of a Cruz-Fiorina partnership conjuredup a waltz between Dracula and Cruella De Vil.
With those three dagger stabs into his own back, Cruz transformed the perception of himself from a popular, credible major presidential candidate – the last man left standing against the Trump Juggernaut – to Oliver Hardy skidding offstage on one greased banana skin after another.
And we have not even got to Cruz’s unfortunate embarrassments at the hands of John Boehner and the Church of Satanism!
But those belly laughs must wait for another day.
Martin Sieff is an editor at Sputnik, the Russian-owned news organization. He is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Middle East (2008), Gathering Storm (2014) and Cycles of Change: The Three Great Eras of American History and the Coming Crisis that will Lead to the Fourth (2014). Follow Martin on: @MartinSieff