When did Cruz really lose the election? Was it when his campaign introduced the world to Lyin’ Ted by emailing supporters before the Iowa Caucuses began that Ben Carson was “taking time off from the campaign trail”? Was it when he neglected to attack Donald Trump for the first six months of the campaign? Or when he chided Trump’s “New York values,” which helped add to a momentum-destroying defeat when the primary turned to New York? Was it when he realized his only way forward was in delegate selection, leading many voters to think he was shady? Or was it when he alienated practically every member of the Republican political establishment?
Politico has a post-mortem of Cruz’s campaign that reads like something of a choose-your-own-adventure. But it’s clear that people in Cruz’s camp were genuinely shocked by how quickly things turned after the campaign’s high-water mark in the Wisconsin primary. “My theory was, if we can expand this coalition the way we did in Wisconsin, we can go into the Northeastern states—it’s a Trump stronghold, we don’t have to win—but we have to be strong,” one Cruz source told Politico. “Well, what a fucking disaster that was.”
Cruz and his advisers were caught off-guard and it showed. Cruz’s exit could not have been more undignified. His selection of Carly Fiorina as vice president only reinforced the idea that he was desperate; he yelled at a child; he lost an argument with a low-rent Joe the Plumber; and Donald Trump implied his dad helped kill JFK, seemingly just to twist the knife a little more. His campaign thought Wisconsin was a turning point, but it turned out to be an outlier for a campaign that was deeply flawed.