Even Ted Cruz’s conservative opponents would have to admit that it would be entertaining to see the Texas senator win the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. Among the most enjoyable aspects of a Cruz campaign would be watching Democrats squirm as the nation’s leading transgender activist, Cruz-endorser Caitlyn Jenner, served as a virtual GOP surrogate. That would certainly undermine the Democratic Party’s claim to serve as the champion of all underserved minority groups, including LGBT Americans. The problem for Cruz’s campaign at the moment is that he simply cannot lean into his genuinely diverse base of support across the Republican spectrum. He has crafted a campaign that rejects the very notion that the GOP needs a more diverse base of voters in order to win the White House.

It does not speak well of Ted Cruz that his view of the Republican electorate is dim enough that he thought he could predicate his candidacy on a myth. “Christians are staying home,” Cruz contended in November. The candidate who launched his campaign at the Christian conservative Liberty University later asserted that, if a True Christian Conservative (e.g. himself) isn’t at the top of the GOP ticket in November, “the same voters who stayed home in ’08 and ’12 will stay home in ’16 and Hillary Clinton will be the next president.” It is a fitting metaphor for Cruz’s pitch to the electorate that he lost the county in which Liberty University is situated to Donald Trump by a whopping 11 points.

It is by some happy miracle that Ted Cruz has so far successfully avoided having to explain how he managed to consistently lose the voters he said the GOP needed to turn out in order to win in November: evangelicals. While Cruz won a narrow victory in Iowa where he also won a plurality of the born-again and evangelical vote, Cruz lost that demographic to Donald Trump in states like Nevada and South Carolina. Had Ted Cruz not pulled off a surprisingly strong victory in Texas, not to mention come-from-behind wins in the Oklahoma primary and Alaska caucuses, he might have had to answer for losing most of the South and the evangelical vote along with it. In Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia, Cruz lost the state and evangelical voters to Donald Trump – a thrice-married, serially mendacious, ethically challenged, Planned Parenthood supporter.

This is nothing to lament. In fact, Cruz should find it liberating that he is free of the prison of dishonesties he created for himself. Cruz’s pitch to voters has thus far been founded on a self-affirmation: It isn’t the GOP that needs to change, but the voters. Cruz has contended that the country is peppered with white, rural, Evangelical sleeper cells that will deliver the White House to the GOP, but only when the right candidate activates them. This theory is based on a misunderstanding of the “missing white voters” phenomenon, which became pronounced in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. The fact is that the white share of the electorate has declined disproportionately relative to its percentage of the population, but that these voters are disproportionately located in solidly Democratic states.

For Republican voters who want to be told that it isn’t they who have to adapt to changing circumstances but the world around them, Donald Trump will always outbid every other candidate. He is not beholden to any electoral strategy or theory of the electorate. He says whatever he thinks the audience immediately in front of him wants to hear, and he worries about the consequences of those comments later. Trump has taken from Cruz the support of those Republicans who want nothing more from their candidate than a series of comforting fictions.

With his newfound surge of support among South and Midwestern voters seeking to coalesce around one anti-Trump candidate, Ted Cruz should abandon his initial tactical approach to winning the nomination. While Super Tuesday’s results were mixed for Cruz in the South, they were spectacularly vindicating in the Texas senator’s home state. Cruz won with a diverse coalition of voters, including a near-majority of evangelicals, white Republicans, and pluralities of Hispanics and Latinos (who made up 10 percent of the electorate) and middle-income voters. That’s an electoral coalition of which any candidate can be proud.

Despite the media-driven drumbeat designed to convince every Republican candidate who has a bad night or two to get out of the race, it would be foolish for any of the remaining candidates to call it quits anytime soon. If at the end of a prolonged campaign season, Cruz emerges as the ultimate nominee, he will have been done a service by Donald Trump. The celebrity candidate robbed the Cruz campaign of the simplistic notion that Republicans could retake the White House on the backs of an army of fictitious voters. Like any Republican nominee, Ted Cruz will need a diverse coalition in order to win in November. Ted Cruz’s resistance to convincing Republicans that a big tent strategy is even necessary has set him back. He’s got a lot of ground to make up.

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