Cruz’s initial strategy had two major components. Believing that Trump’s appeal was limited to less than 50 percent of the Republican electorate, he had to outlast the other presidential candidates and force a head-to-head battle in which an anti-Trump alliance would defeat Trump’s bloc of disaffected voters. At the same time, Cruz knew that he would need those voters and their energy in the general election, so was careful not to engage Trump for most of the race. In December, for instance, he tweeted one of this primary’s great tweets, which will go down in hilarious infamy when Cruz concedes the nomination:
But Trump has been the frontrunner since he entered the race and his share of the Republican electorate has only increased. Despite a string of victories, Cruz, whose policies are as off-putting to many Republicans as Trump’s, hasn’t been able to build an anti-Trump coalition and certainly hasn’t been able to woo Trump’s supporters.
Cruz has already been mathematically eliminated from winning the nomination outright. Even if he wins Indiana and California, he will be nowhere near Donald Trump when the Republican Convention begins in July. If Cruz loses Indiana, which it looks like he will, he will have to find an argument for staying in the race.
Unfortunately for Cruz, he’s been making a number of these arguments for the last few months—that he’s the only nominee who can defeat Hillary Clinton, that Trump isn’t a real Republican, that he’s the only candidate who can put the rubber sphere through the basketball ring. None of them have worked. Still, he will likely stay in the race, if only to present himself as a white knight in case Trump does something really stupid and the party changes its mind.