Coming off a thorough but not unexpected drubbing in the New York primary on Tuesday night, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and his campaign spent much of Wednesday trying to make the public case for his path forward in the Republican presidential primary despite Donald trump’s current commanding lead. However, depending on the audience, the message was very different.
Cruz and his senior campaign advisers attended the spring meeting of the Republican National Committee in Hollywood, Florida, on Wednesday. The candidate made himself available to the press in the afternoon and the message was clear: Trump’s win in New York was utterly unsurprising and did nothing to change the fact, Cruz insisted, that he is in a stronger position to win the nomination.
“Donald is on a path to losing the nomination, and all of his bluster, all of his bravado, is designed to hide that fact,” Cruz claimed.
Despite the fact that Trump is now the only candidate with a mathematically possible path to the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination on the first ballot, Cruz insisted, “Nobody is able to reach 1,237 ... We’re going to arrive in Cleveland with me having a ton of delegates and Donald having a ton of delegates.”
When they do, he promised, “I believe we will have a tremendous advantage.”
Cruz, of course, has demonstrated repeatedly that he has a campaign organization far superior to Trump’s, having managed to place Cruz loyalists into delegate slots won by Trump in multiple states. Those delegates will be required to vote for Trump on the first ballot at the convention, but on the second and third ballots more and more of them will be freed up to change their loyalty to Cruz.
It’s a tactic Trump has angrily criticized, calling it proof that the system is “rigged.”
Asked about the possible public perception that he is gaming the system in order to win the nomination, Cruz dismissed the idea, saying it would resonate “only with the hard-core Trump supporters.”
However, at the same meeting where his boss was projecting blithe certainty of victory, Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe was pitching a different story to the GOP faithful. A Donald Trump nomination, he warned, is a real possibility and presents a grave danger to the future of the Republican Party.
Roe delivered an hour-long presentation to the RNC. Speaking to reporters afterward, he said that in a general election in which Trump was the nominee, the result could be what he called a “whitewash” for the GOP. “It could be a situation where we would have to rename our party afterwards.”
He said that he’s warned his audience that the impact of a Trump candidacy would have effects far beyond the presidential race.
“One of the critical components, if you're an RNC member that has worked your life to get Republicans elected in your state, is how do you get them re-elected, with a Republican nominee?” he said. “What is the nominee of your party going to do for you as a state party?”
That’s not the message of a campaign manager completely confident that his candidate is going to be the nominee.