Republican Senator Ted Cruz

Wow! Cazart! Hot diggity! Donald Trump has won the Indiana primary with a stonking 20-point victory, and Ted Cruz has dropped out of the race. The Indiana victory netted Trump 50 or so delegates and pushed him over the 1000 pledged delegates line. It would have set him up for a pre-convention victory, even if Cruz had not announced the “suspension” of his campaign, a few hours after the polls closed. On the Democratic side, it’s a tie; either Hillary or Bernie will win by a few thousand votes, but they will take the same number of delegates.

The Indiana result represented a stark and total failure for the Cruz campaign, and for the wider Stop Trump, or #neverTrump, movement. A few months out, one might have said a close result was possible, with Cruz able to draw on the state’s religious groups and socially conservative backbone. But over recent contests it had become clear that evangelicals weren’t there for Cruz, especially where evangelical Christianity was a badge of white-race culture. They went for New York liberal, adulterer, Satan, Donald Trump big-time. Cruz was heading for a bruising even before the state campaign began.

Once the state campaign had begun, Cruz, boy, he really screwed it up. Trading on his famed love of movies (he can recite The Princess Bride entire) he staged a scene from ’80s basketball Indiana underdog movie Hoosiers, in which a coach measures the height of a basketball rim — note, rim, they call it a rim — at a championship event, to make the point that it’s the same height as at their lowly school court. A game’s a game was the point. Cruz even had someone on a ladder restaging the scene, to show that the “basketball ring’s” the same height everywhere. There’s a shot of the crowd behind him as he says it, and their face showing dismay. Whatever chance he had of being in the game, he lost it then.

Won’t be the last rim job that leaves someone spitting into a basin, but it just confirmed what most people thought about Cruz: that he was an alien lizard man in a beige sweaty flesh suit who had learnt the ways of the humans from the radio waves of old TV shows hitting his ship way out in the Oort Cloud. The second move was the audacious/bizarre act of naming Carly Fiorina as his vice-presidential pick. Pulling out an early VP pick was worth a try; Fiorina, as a woman, was worth a try, but in rustbelt Indiana it also brought more damage — given Fiorina’s rep as a slash-and-burn CEO, a pious free-marketeer, and an arrogant and imperious candidate. Still, she might have enjoyed her six days as pretend-candidate for the most pseudo-powerful job in the country. It rather captures the whole mood of the #neverTrump push.

Following that, it became some sort of nightmare for the poor old Ted. People smelt death on him — or fatiguing rubber anyway, that spacehoppers-left-in-a-garage odour — and they all piled in. For Cruz, who appears to have got into politics because no one liked him in the first place, it appears to have been some fast recap of his whole existence. The high/lowlight appears to have been having a 12-year-old boy tell him “you suck!”, which must have brought back memories of, well, being 12. Just in case anything needed tamping down, Trump phoned in to TV shows this morning to spruik a nonsensical National Enquirer story that Cruz’s father was associated with Lee Harvey Oswald before the Kennedy assassination.

The passing of the Cruz campaign leaves more questions than answers. The failure was utter. John Kasich ran dead in Indiana — getting 8% — to give Cruz a chance to defeat Trump in some districts. It didn’t even begin to happen, and there seems no reason to believe that the rest of the country wouldn’t be around a 55-60/35 split for Trump and his opponents. The win gives Trump close to 1050 delegates (including a few at-large delegates who have pledged to him), and there now appears to be no chance he won’t get the 1237 he needs on June 7, when California, New Jersey and other states go to the polls. John Kasich appears to be remaining in the race at time of writing, and the pressure for him to withdraw is now off. He’s no longer a purported Cruz spoiler, so no one gives a damn. He may well withdraw and no one will notice.

However, on the other side, the pressure on Bernie Sanders to withdraw will be immense, and bitter. It may be of such a degree that even Sanders will be given pause for thought. Trump is now free to train his guns on Hillary full time, and once he does that, the numbers may begin to shift. The numbers for Trump, at the moment, remain appalling and make him unelectable, and they may well stay that way. Many are arguing that to underestimate Trump’s chances at the election is to repeat the mistake of underestimating him in the primaries. But that’s an error. He was earlier underestimated by people going against the polls, arguing that they were a product of early running, etc, etc. Those same polls that predicted great Trump victories now predict great Trump losses — so Trump will need to turn them around.

The next month or so will be yuuuge in that respect, because now is when the Donald needs a make-over. The paradox is that as soon as he starts that, he’ll lose much of the crazy-brave enthusiasm that got him there, and start to be mired in policy issues. If he keeps this act up until the convention, with no one to turn it against, he’ll come out as a blowhard; once he starts to do policy, he’ll be revealed as an idiot, on matters of any complexity; once he tries to do politicking, he’ll be a politician. He will have large sections of the grousing right fall in line behind him, and FOX News will help him out — sections of it anyway — the devotion of him by people like Sean Hannity so great that Ted Cruz — Ted Cruz! — has come out squawking about “Murdochracy”, and running a line essentially indistinguishable from John Pilger, and many others.

Whatever happens, this period of the election is well and truly over, and things may look very different in even a few weeks time. John Kasich is out somewhere in West Virginia speaking to three rocks from the back of a truck, Ted Cruz slinks back to DC to be a loathed Senator and outsider, and plan a 2020 run, having missed that three-point shot, and America is — from an orange, squinting badger man — getting what it has long sought: a year-long political rim job.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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