When Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) defeated billionaire business mogul Donald Trump in the Iowa caucus, pundits were quick to cite the senator’s superior ground game and heavy turnout from social conservatives and evangelical voters. Donald Trump, unlike the other Republican Party presidential candidates, only held large rallies in the state of Iowa and did not embrace Iowa’s “retail politicking,” where candidates visit local restaurants, coffee shops and community centers. Cruz was the only top-tier GOP candidate to visit all 99 counties in Iowa prior to the caucus, and Cruz won Iowa by the highest margin in the state’s history with 51,666 votes. This is 21,827 votes more than the 2012 Iowa Republican caucus winner, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and 10,712 votes more than the 2008 Iowa Republican caucus winner, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Like Iowa, New Hampshire is over 90 percent white, but is much more moderate than the Hawkeye State. Political analysts correctly predicted that since Gov. of Ohio John Kasich, former Gov. of Florida Jeb Bush and Gov. of New Jersey Chris Christie were all campaigning heavily in New Hampshire, the three moderate Republicans would split the “establishment” vote and deliver a win to the New York billionaire. Trump took first place with 35 percent of the vote, Kasich placed second with 15.7 percent of the vote, Cruz placed third with 11.7 percent of the vote, Bush placed fourth with 11 percent of the vote, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) placed fifth with 10.6 percent of the vote and Christie placed sixth with 7.4 percent of the vote. What was most surprising was that the anti-establishment Cruz placed ahead of Bush, who spent over $36 million in New Hampshire, and both of them beat Rubio. The Florida senator campaigned on being the “most electable Republican” in a state that chose establishment George H.W. Bush over conservative Ronald Reagan in 1980 and moderate John McCain over socially conservative George W. Bush in 2000.
In every South Carolina poll, Cruz falls in a distant second place behind Trump. While Kasich, Bush and Rubio are fighting for third place in South Carolina and the establishment mantle, Cruz is bracing for a fierce Super Tuesday. On March 1, 2016, 13 states will hold primaries and caucuses to select the GOP nominee.
Cruz is the only candidate running who can beat Trump on Super Tuesday. Cruz can narrowly win eight of the 13 Super Tuesday states because the demographics and political leanings of Republican voters in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia are closer to the demographics and political leanings of voters in Iowa, rather than the moderate voters in New Hampshire. It is hard to imagine that southern, socially conservative and evangelical Christians will elect a loud and arrogant New Yorker who has been divorced twice over a Texan who is the son of a pastor and who has been endorsed by both the National Organization for Marriage and Gun Owners of America.
If Trump wins these eight states on Super Tuesday in addition to winning the South Carolina primary and the Nevada caucus, he will have more delegates than any other GOP candidate, and will be on track to win the Republican nomination. Having Trump as the 2016 GOP nominee would be a disaster. Trump’s controversial comments on Mexicans and Muslims have made him more polarizing than former Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) in 1964 and former Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.) in 1972. Trump’s candidacy would guarantee a landslide electoral victory for Democrats, even if the far-left Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.) were the Democratic nominee.
In a general election matchup against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Public Policy Polling reports that Clinton would narrowly defeat Cruz. Unlike Trump, Cruz is a gifted orator who holds a place in the Princeton Debate Panel Hall of Fame. Cruz would be able to hold his own against Clinton, who is also a skilled debater, on economic issues and questions about U.S. foreign policy. As the GOP nominee, Cruz would be competitive against Clinton in swing states like Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio with blue collar and socially conservative voters.
Cruz may not be the most electable Republican, but he stands the best chance of removing the bulging wart from the face of the GOP that is Trump. This would go a long way in terms of softening the party’s image toward Latinos and other minority groups that Trump has offended — groups that Republicans will need to win over to be able to compete in diverse and competitive swing states. However, if New Hampshire is any indication, two out of the three remaining establishment Republicans need to drop out after the South Carolina primary and back the candidate who can defeat Cruz and Trump, assuming they do not want to see Clinton in the White House in January 2017.
Jeff Naft is a junior in the College. He is on the board of the College Republicans.
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