Hoop dreams

Can the presidential ambitions of Ted Cruz be resurrected in Indiana?

Jon Snow is alive but — spoiler alert — the presidential ambitions of Sen. Ted Cruz look to be in dire need of Melisandre's resurrection magic. Even that may be too little too late: Polls suggest Indiana Republicans aren't persuaded by the Texan's charms whether he's teamed up with a failed Hewlett-Packard CEO or not. Despite Senator Cruz's warnings that the Hoosier state is his last line of defense, it looks like his political winter is coming.

It's hard to say for sure whether a big win in Tuesday's Indiana primary will draw a concession speech from either Senator Cruz or Gov. John Kasich. In fact, it probably won't given that Donald Trump will still be well short of his 1,237 delegates whether Indiana's 57 are added to his estimated 996 total or not. But given the likelihood of a strong Trump showing in the upcoming primaries in New Jersey and California, Mr. Cruz had been counting on Indiana to keep his campaign from, in his own words, "plunging over the cliff."

Yet the plunge awaits. Why? The easy answer is that Mr. Cruz could never pass Indiana's baloney detector. In a state with the motto "honest to goodness," a Texas senator who tries to conjure a key scene from the movie, "Hoosiers," but refers to the basketball hoop as a "ring" isn't going to register high on the genuine-ness meter. Nor did it win a lot of votes to call a temporary truce with Mr. Kasich or to tap Carly Fiorina as a running mate in an obvious attempt to underscore Mr. Trump's lack of support among female voters. Ms. Fiorina once told a reporter that Mr. Cruz "says whatever he needs to say to get elected." Well, of course he does.

Worst of all has been the cynical attacks by Senator Cruz against those who oppose the "bathroom bills" in North Carolina and elsewhere that seek to block transgender individuals from using the restroom that corresponds to their sexual identity. This is one area where Mr. Trump has been surprisingly lucid — he doesn't see the need for this obviously unworkable decree. Same for most Americans. But Mr. Cruz clearly saw an opportunity to appeal to evangelicals and other social conservatives and conjured images of child molesters and sexual predators behind every stall door.

Still, there is so much more to be writ on the Cruz political epitaph. He underestimated Mr. Trump from Day One, saving his attacks for candidates he obviously saw as bigger threats and giving the New York billionaire a wider berth. He ran as an insider/outsider which might well have been effective in a year of voter anger if Mr. Trump hadn't loomed as the ultimate insider/outsider, who will say anything no matter how buffoonish. He may be tacky and ill-informed but Mr. Trump is what he is — and a certain segment of the GOP electorate (white, male and relatively low income) loves him for it.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Bernie Sanders is hoping for a bit of Hoosier magic, too, and polls suggest a tight race. Yet it's clear that any path to a Sanders victory or, more likely, a contested Democratic National Convention, would require superdelegates who currently support Hillary Clinton to switch sides, a highly unlikely scenario. Instead, Mr. Sanders appears to be in the race to help mold the party platform and perhaps the vice presidential selection. That he's been spending less time lately attacking Ms. Clinton and more talking policy in recent days reinforces that view. It is Wall Street bankers and failed federal regulators who will be "feeling the Bern" from now on.

Like "Game of Thrones," it's always unwise to make assumptions this election year but a Trump-Clinton matchup now appears as inevitable as another shakeup on the Iron Throne. And that can only mean one thing — a lot of cringe-worthy moments ahead. Mr. Trump's recent assessment that Ms. Clinton's success is somehow due to her gender (the playing of the "woman card") is laughable given the partisan taunting she's endured from for decades but may be typical of the ugly, if entertaining, reality show of a fight ahead this fall.

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