What is the “Establishment?” Everyone has their own definition, but apparently this year it refers to everyone who is against Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, or both. Whoever they are, we can assume that they’re the ones behind the ploy to nominate someone other than Cruz or Trump. When the nomination is finalized and the general election begins, we’ll need their help. Until then, it’s best if they simply stay out of the way.

Cruz continues to be criticized by mainstream media for not getting a bunch of his friends in Washington DC to endorse him because he really doesn’t have many friends in Washington DC. He has the Freedom Caucus in the House. He has Senator Mike Lee. He has a handful of good endorsements from five previous candidates. He has a good number of pundits. That’s it.

It’s the absence of endorsements that demonstrates why Ted Cruz needs to be the Republican nominee. Many Cruz supporters are calling for Republican leaders to coalesce around Cruz, but I disagree. He has some of the strongest surrogates available already with Carly Fiorina, Mark Levin, Rick Perry, and sometimes even Glenn Beck when he’s not saying something silly. Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham endorsed him and both was viewed by many as negatives. Scott Walker helped deliver Wisconsin, but his reach really ends there. Ben Sasse and Marco Rubio are notably absent from his list, but otherwise there aren’t a whole lot of endorsements or friends on the campaign trail that would help him.

In other words, he doesn’t need assistance from the Establishment or even those notably outside of the Establishment like Rand Paul. He needs the voters in upcoming states the most and while endorsements are appreciated, they’ve proven to be ineffective this year. Sarah Palin couldn’t deliver Alaska to Trump. Nikki Haley couldn’t deliver South Carolina to Rubio. In fact, most high-profile endorsements have failed to deliver their own states. This is the year of the insurgent and getting support from other politicians isn’t the way to win the nomination.

Cruz needs to focus on message and optics. Those are the only two things that can truly help him in the upcoming states. The Establishment won’t support him and that’s a good thing.

At the delegate level, it’s a completely different story. Cruz is doing what it takes to solidify support after the first ballot. If he can continue to use his impressive organization infrastructures in key states to have the right people in place when they’re unbound, he can win on second ballot. Here’s how:

  • Step one: force a second ballot by keeping Trump away from 1237. It’s not a solid number that must be avoided. There’s risk even if Trump falls short leading into the convention if he’s close enough. This is why the talk of keeping Trump from getting to 1237 isn’t completely accurate. He needs to be kept as far away as possible. Remember, Gerald Ford was 40 delegates short going into the 1976 convention and he still won on the first ballot.
  • Step two: gather the support of as many delegates as possible even if they’re bound on the first ballot. If Cruz can succeed in step one, he’ll need those delegates who are unbound for the second or subsequent ballots to know the gameplan and shift their support to him. Again, appearance count; the more definitive his victory is on a later ballot, the more likely it is that those crying foul in the Trump camp will be hushed quickly. Squeaking by on the third ballot with 1242 delegates won’t be as effective as hitting a much higher delegate number on the second ballot.

The Establishment wants to be needed, but at this point their support is unnecessary and potentially negative. The path to the nomination currently favors Cruz despite the current delegate counts and the moderate nature of many of the upcoming states. It will take hard work by the campaign and his supporters to deliver on both steps of the plan, but at this point he should be considered the favorite by anyone who knows the process.

Most voters are already against the “Establishment,” whoever they are. That has been clear since the first few primaries and caucuses. The key to solidifying the future of the country is for Ted Cruz to win the nomination without the help of the Establishment that he’s spent the last few years opposing. He’s made enemies since coming to Washington DC. That fact might be the biggest endorsement he could ever get.