The news media today is pushing the headline about Trump winning Michigan and Mississippi because that’s what suits their desired outcome: Trump winning the Republican nomination. However, the reality is that Ted Cruz accomplished everything he wanted to do yesterday.
I’m not just saying that as an after the fact justification either. Yesterday, before the votes started, I said that Ted Cruz wanted to do three things. He accomplished all three in stellar fashion.
First, it was important for Cruz to gain a win to keep his momentum and to verify his claim that he is still able to beat Donald Trump regularly. Cruz accomplished that in Idaho, racking up nearly 50% of the vote in a state where the polling showed Donald Trump ahead just last week. Due to Idaho’s bizarre delegate allocation rules and Rubio’s failure to clear the 20% delegate threshold, Cruz got the bonus reward of gaining all 32 delegates from Idaho, making it effectively a winner-take-all state. UPDATE/CORRECTION: My apologies, I misread the Idaho delegate allocation rules. The way I initially read them, I interpreted them to mean that if only two candidates cleared the 20% threshold, the winner would take all. However, that is not correct and it looks like the final delegate allocation from Idaho is Cruz 2o, Trump 12.
Second, I said it was important for Cruz to beat Rubio (and Kasich, if possible) in Michigan. The knock against Cruz from camps Rubio and Kasich has always been that his appeal is limited to very conservative/evangelical voters, and that he will struggle in the Midwest and other regions of the country where those voters are not as plentiful. Cruz walked into a state where John Kasich has basically been camped out for weeks and stole a second place finish away from him. Rubio finished so far behind in fourth that he got absolutely no delegates at all. While doubts may remain about Cruz’s ability to beat Hillary, there can be no doubts now that Cruz is the candidate in the best position to stop Donald Trump’s march to 1,237.
Third, I said that Cruz needed to stop the bleeding in the South. In the final Southern state, it looks like Cruz finally consolidated the anti-Trump vote for the most part, and finally came close enough to Trump to stop the delegate hemorrhage. Polls in Mississippi showed Trump beating Cruz by over 20 points as recently as last week, and raised the question as to whether Trump might walk away with all the Mississippi delegates. Instead, Trump ended up winning by a bare 10 points, and at most recent estimate only gained 10 delegates on Cruz in Mississippi.
If you’re a Ted Cruz fan, there’s no reason to despair today. Cruz accomplished exactly what he set out to accomplish.
The only problem right now is that the field remains too fractured. After next Tuesday, Cruz looks likely to get a run at Trump one-on-one, and he has to like the idea that he has a reasonable shot at preventing Trump from reaching 1,237 at the very least.