THE DETAILS: What Ted Cruz Did Wrong

Ted Cruz, at one point, was poised to be a strong opponent to Trump. Now, he has dropped out of the race. See what Fred Barnes thinks about where Ted took the wrong turn.

What happened to Ted Cruz? A month ago, he won the Wisconsin primary in a landslide and was poised to combat Donald Trump with a fresh burst of enthusiasm. Now he’s out of the race and Trump is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Things happened in two cycles, some in recent weeks and others that plagued his campaign from the beginning. As Trump said last night, Cruz is tough and smart. But he made big mistakes as a presidential candidate.

Cruz thought he could skip primaries in states that looked unpromising. He made a weak effort in New York on April 19 and finished third in the primary. That had an immediate impact on the primaries a week later in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Rhode Island. He lost all five and finished third – that is, last – in four of them.

In primaries late in a presidential race, winning is everything, says Scott Reed, the political adviser to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Second doesn’t matter. Third is a joke.” Reed ran Bob Dole’s successful campaign for the GOP nomination.

“It’s a sequential process,” according to Jeff Bell, a campaign adviser to Ronald Reagan in 1976. Voters are affected by the success of a candidate in earlier primaries. Trump’s victory in New York led to the five-state sweep and to his triumph over Cruz in Indiana primary yesterday.

Cruz decided to make a stand in Indiana, brushing off the five Northeast states. He believed they “wouldn’t make any difference in voters’ minds in Indiana,” says Rich Danker, who ran a pro-Cruz super PAC. But states “don’t have to be all alike” for voters to be influenced by their outcome, he says.

After Cruz came in a distant third in New York, his poll numbers began to drop. Over ten days in late April, Cruz went from six percentage points behind Trump (WTHR/Howey Politics) to 15 points behind (NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist). Trump won Indiana by 16 points. On Monday, Gallup’s editor in chief Frank Newport disclosed that “after a holding period of sorts in March and early April, Cruz’s image began to deteriorate significantly in the last two weeks.”

Two other factors contributed to his demise. He accused Trump of being a liberal like Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic presidential nominee. The charge wasn’t credible. Trump may not be a conservative, but he’s hardly a liberal.

And Cruz talked incessantly about process. He and his campaign aides boasted about how well he was doing in putting Cruz backers in delegate slots pledged to Trump. They pointed to their success in winning all 34 delegates in Colorado, though neither a primary nor a caucus had been held.

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