Ted Cruz must look to recast himself as a bridge builder after years of bridge burning if he is to ever clinch the Republican nomination.
The political contrasts between Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton illustrate two very different approaches towards their party nominations. By the time Clinton arrived in the Senate, she was already prominent within the Democratic Party and courteously took a backseat complying with her seniors, working persistently behind the scenes to build relationships and increase her party standing. Over time she has netted the endorsement of 469 superdelegates, the majority of which consist of her Democratic Senate colleagues and other elected officials. Despite a loss in momentum and a sporadic surge in the popularity of the progressive Bernie Sanders, Clinton is now expected to cement the Presidential nomination she believes she was destined for.
Conversely, her polar opposite and Tea-Party hero Ted Cruz has been more fixated with making more enemies than friends. Ever since the 2013 government shutdown Cruz has been branded as the man who doesn’t work well with others, and whom others dislike – a lot – for that unwillingness to go along to get along. He has run on an extremely conservative platform that many of the GOP elite have felt offered no appeal to the wider spectrum of US voters. Yet at this critical stage in the primary he has received endorsements from party dignitaries such as Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Scott Walker and Mark Levin. One year ago, most Republican officials would be stunned to learn Trump would be likely to become their Presidential nominee, but even more so at the fact Cruz has rallied the support of the establishment that once detested him.
Cruz now faces the greatest challenge of his primary race so far, as a cluster of traditional liberal-leaning north-eastern states approach, New York being the first on April 19th. As the Republican nominating contest shifts towards these moderate states, he is navigating an awkward new alliance with the GOP establishment he built a career on attacking. In recent weeks he has struck a more inclusive tone – in his Milwaukee victory speech he explicitly emphasised ‘unity’ and the ‘coming together’ of republicans. He is now shifting away from his evangelical Christian message that fared so well in the mid-west and pivoting more towards an urban based economic message of “Jobs, Freedom and Security”.
Trump has mocked Cruz’s newfound alliance with the Republican elite by labelling him a “Trojan horse” for the establishment. The label serves as a reminder that Cruz has built his popularity on being a Washington outsider, yet it seems the Republican establishment will opt for the devil they know as opposed to an unmanageable and erratic Trump. If Cruz should capitalise on Trumps self-destructive path, the GOP may nominate the most conservative and radical presidential candidate in the party’s history.