Ted Cruz, Republican Nominee? Likely
Yes, it’s theoretically possible that the delegates will choose a white knight, but that would happen only after days of deadlocked voting.
In other words, the delegates would have to really want someone other than Cruz. And given the Cruz campaign’s success at lining up huge numbers of sympathetic delegates, that seems unlikely. And would they really rally to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), the most-discussed potential savior? I doubt it.
Although there is no coherent ideological agenda implied by the term “anti-establishment,” it is a recognizable attitude. Trump and Cruz have very different philosophies.
(For starters, Cruz has one.)
But they are both avatars of the anti-establishment mood, a mood that will be well represented on the convention floor. It seems unlikely that delegates’ ultimate choice would be someone so synonymous with the establishment.
There’s also the fact that Paul Ryan doesn’t want the nomination, and there are precious few other figures of equal stature in the party.
If Trump loses on the first ballot, the most likely scenario is that Cruz will win on the second or third.
In fact, some see a path where Cruz cobbles together his own delegates, unbound delegates, and, say, Marco Rubio’s delegates and wins on the first ballot. He’s that good at working the system.
There’s some irony here, of course. Cruz spent years building his reputation as the guy who wants to tear down the system, and now it’s the system, not necessarily the voters, that may put him over the top. Nervous Republicans should find this reassuring. Yes, in a normal year, failure to win a majority of votes in the primaries would present a serious PR problem. But this isn’t a normal year.
Meanwhile, Cruz is demonstrating, yet again, his ability to do what is required to win. That’s a skill that will be much needed come the fall.