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Ted Cruz has a powerful strategy available to him. This strategy could not only determine the winner of the Republican convention but put Cruz in position to influence policy for generations.
But it’s probably not what you’re thinking.
I’m going to lay out some assumptions, many of which you could disagree with. That’s okay. But for the purposes of this post, let’s stipulate:
- Ted Cruz believes, like Glenn Beck, that Donald Trump would make a worse president than Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or Bernie Sanders. I say this because Glenn Beck has been joined to Cruz’s hip since before Iowa and these are things Beck believes, at least this month.
- Ted Cruz’s hypothesis of evangelical voters carrying him to the White House was rejected in New Hampshire and again in South Carolina. It will likely fail across the country. While he may be right about 50 million or so evangelicals not voting in 2012, he was wrong that most of them would vote for him if they voted.
- Ted Cruz is unlikely to get enough delegates to win before the convention. I say this because Ted Cruz’s best states award delegates proportionally, while the best states for Rubio or Trump award winner-take-all. Which means, for example, if Cruz wins Texas by one vote, he walks away with 3 more delegates than number two. But if Trump wins Florida by one vote, Trump as all 99 delegates to himself. That pattern repeats itself through the primaries. States with lots of evangelical conservatives are proportional (like Iowa), states with fewer evangelical conservatives are winner-take-all (like South Carolina). So winning a majority of states will probably not win a majority of delegates for Cruz. FiveThirtyEight provided everything I know about this.
- Ted Cruz sincerely wants what’s best for America.
- Senate Republicans would love to get rid of Ted Cruz.
You’re free to reject any of those, but let’s just play along for a little. Let’s just say all five points are true. Now what?
Here’s Ted Cruz’s ultimate strategy.
Cruz could make an offer to Trump and to Rubio separately: “I will drop out of the race and endorse you on one condition: you must, in writing, guarantee to make me your first Supreme Court appointee.”
The first who signs the affidavit wins. Oh, and let each candidate know that the same offer is before the other rival. Play a little Prisoners’ Dilemma with them.
Most likely, game over. One of the two will make the deal and that candidate will pick up a lot of support. Ted Cruz will overcome the controversies from Iowa and South Carolina that led some people to question his integrity and political acumen. In fact, Cruz would come off as the most selfless statesman in generations. And even if Trump takes the offer and wins the White House, Ted Cruz will be there on the Supreme Court to keep him in check.
What if both candidates reject the offer?
Then you go public. Trump and Rubio would both look bad for rejecting a brilliant and humble offer from Cruz. Maybe the goodwill Cruz would generate would be enough to overcome assumption number 3. Maybe not.
But if Cruz, Rubio, and Trump all stay in the race to the convention, Cruz will end up playing power broker between them anyway, cutting a deal to deliver his delegates to the ultimate winner.
There’s my best strategy for Cruz. Have a better one?