Ted Cruz is a walking ghost. In deadly radiation poisoning, this term describes the symptomless period that may follow immediate nausea, right before the immune system shuts down.
Cruz has already lost the nomination, it's just that he and the so-called 'Never-Trumps' are yet to realize it. When awareness dawns, the agony will be fast, acute, and terminal.
Cruz's exposure came from his pyrrhic Colorado victory; his nausea followed the New York primary last week; and the Cruz-Kasich deal finalized on Sunday heralds his final demise.
The Colorado Incident:
In 2013, the Republican National Committee changed its rules to require state delegates be pledged to the candidate who wins the popular caucus vote. In Colorado, the popular caucus has tended to support outsider candidates, such as Rick Santorum in 2012.
With Donald Trump and Ben Carson dominant in the polls, the Colorado Republican Executive voted last August to abolish the vote altogether. It was a naked move to spite the RNC, undermine democracy, and disenfranchise Colorado Republican voters from the nomination process.
As a GOP outsider himself, Cruz was not originally the intended beneficiary. After Bush and Rubio dropped out, however, the 'NeverTrump' forces rallied around the Cruz campaign and secured all of Colorado's 34 delegates without a single popular vote being cast.
Immediately after the Colorado result the state GOP unbelievably confirmed the conspiracy, tweeting "We did it. #NEVERTRUMP."
The tweet was deleted within minutes, and the Colorado GOP claimed it was the result of "unauthorized access" of its account. There is no evidence to support this claim, and subsequent investigation has yielded no result.
In any case, the media reported Cruz's delegate sweep as evidence of the "sophistication of the Cruz campaign" relative to Trump's, adding to the narrative of political obituaries (in some cases literal) being written for Trump after his Wisconsin defeat.
For media and pundits, it was yet another free kick directly in front of goal where they totally failed to connect with the ball.
In reality, the Colorado coup was a 34 delegate suicide note for the Cruz campaign and for anyone hoping to see a contested GOP convention come July.
The New York Nausea:
In the days before the New York Primary, Donald Trump contributed an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal titled 'Let Me Ask America a Question'.
Critics who panned it as a ghost-written puff piece entirely missed the core message from Trump: 'My campaign strategy is to win with voters. Ted Cruz's strategy is to win despite them'.
Two days later a poll was released that showed 62% of Republican voters believe that if no candidate wins an outright majority leading into the convention, then the candidate with the most pledged delegates should be the nominee. This is obviously going to be Trump, and yet this level of support is wildly higher than the number of people who, prior to New York, had actually voted for him.
This, more than any other noisy statistic, is why Trump will achieve outright victory.
The timing is critical. Prior to the New York primary Ted Cruz could technically (albeit not feasibly) have accumulated 1237 delegates going into the convention. After New York that became mathematically impossible, and now both of Trump's remaining rivals can only secure the nomination through a contested convention.
What voters hear, with some merit, is that the only way Trump will lose is if their votes are discounted and the election is stolen. As the 62% poll result shows, this is a concern for Trump supporters and non-supporters alike.
The Terminal Phase:
None of this was an accident. Trump and Paul Manafort (Trump's seasoned new convention manager) clearly planned for this. They didn't even try to secure delegates in Colorado, instead they just watched the NeverTrumps walk into the Cannae envelope and then capitalized with remarkable effect.
It is a case study in the Hannibal style brilliance that has defined the Trump campaign so far.
For Ted Cruz, it will be all rapidly downhill from here. Not only are the upcoming primaries strongly favoring Trump demographically, those who would otherwise support Cruz or Kasich are now likely to stay home. This will be because they either believe the candidate with the pledged delegates should not have the nomination stolen, or because that they see little point in voting in a seemingly irrelevant primary.
As of this week, the NeverTrumps have gone into meltdown. The Cruz and Kasich campaigns announced they will be coordinating their efforts and giving each other a free run in remaining primaries; Cruz in Indiana and Kasich in Oregon and New Mexico.
This move by Cruz and Kasich is an attempt to keep Trump from 1237 by ensuring each receives the minimum voting threshold to peel delegates off Trump within individual Congressional Districts.
Tim Miller, spokesman for the anti-Trump Super PAC 'Our Principles' said he found the move "encouraging" and obviously believes it will lead to a contested convention. In an email to the media, he haughtily stated "see you in Cleveland."
Miller is a fool. Had Kasich dropped out of the race completely it would still have been a desperate move, but one that would have carried a small chance of success. As is, it plays right into the narrative of corrupt insiders rigging the system to thwart a democratically elected nominee.
There isn't going to be a contested convention. Trump will reach 1237 pledged delegates in California to emerge presumptive nominee. The NeverTrumps have played their hand so badly they deserve what's coming. Best they just tear the rings from their fingers now and hurl them at the Carthaginians, it will save much time and slaughter.
This piece first appeared in The Lowy Interpreter here.
Image: Flickr/Creative Commons.