Home/Daniel Larison/No, Cruz Doesn’t Really Have a “Shot” at the Nomination

No, Cruz Doesn’t Really Have a “Shot” at the Nomination

Sometimes contrarian arguments are just bad arguments:

But the fact remains that the pool of anti-establishment votes has been proven, at least once, to be bigger than the pool of establishment votes. And that fact alone should get us to at least question the conventional wisdom on GOP primaries.

The conventional wisdom already takes this into account. “Establishment” candidates don’t keep winning Republican nominations because there is a larger “pool” of “establishment” votes in the primaries. No one argues that this is the reason for their success. These candidates win as often as they do because their competition reliably splits the conservative vote so that no one challenger can get enough to support to defeat the “establishment” candidate often enough to take the nomination. In 2008 and 2012, there was an overabundance of conservative alternatives to the “establishment” candidate, and in this election it is likely that there will be even more. Splitting the conservative vote made the McCain and Romney wins possible, and that vote seems sure to be split between many more candidates this time around. Cruz’s entry into the race makes this problem worse.

It also helps the relative moderates’ cause that they are able to win some support from among “very conservative” and “somewhat” conservative voters. Most people that describe themselves as “very conservative” have no time for these candidates, but some are willing to vote for them, and that makes the insurgent candidates’ task that much more difficult. Meanwhile, the insurgent candidates are usually unable to get very many moderate votes. They are typically concerned to appeal only to the voters that are closest to them ideologically, and their emphasis on ideological consistency makes them a poor fit for voters that find this off-putting or boring. The insurgents organize their campaigns as if moderate Republican voters didn’t exist or don’t matter, but these voters make up a substantial percentage of the primary electorate. These candidates start off more or less writing off a third or more of the Republican primary voters.

Cruz is the least likely to be able to appeal to primary voters that don’t already agree with him, and so he is most likely to remain a factional or protest candidate in a field that will already be full of them. If he has a “shot” at the nomination, it is an extraordinarily long and difficult one that no one could realistically make. But then Cruz isn’t really interested in winning the nomination or the presidency, nor is he all that interested in advancing a particular cause other than that of his own aggrandizement.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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