Indianapolis, Indiana, May 3rd, 2016, a little before 8:30 p.m. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz strode onstage beneath a gorgeous stained-glass relief in the city’s Union Station. The hall was doubling as a swanky bar for an upscale local hotel, and much of the assembled press was both lubricated and impatient. The primary had been called for Donald Trump more than an hour before. What was the holdup?
“God bless the Hoosier State!” Cruz said to whoops and cheers after he finally emerged. He was surrounded by a phalanx of American flags, family members and his gimmick running mate of six and a half days, Carly Fiorina, who stared out at the crowd with her trademark alien-abducted smile.
Cruz glanced back and forth across the room with that odd, neckless, monitor-lizard posture of his. He had to know the import of this moment. Nothing less than the future of the Republican Party had been at stake in the Indiana primary.
A Cruz loss effectively meant ceding control of the once-mighty organization to Trump, a seemingly unrepentant non-Republican more likely to read Penthouse than the National Review.
Before the vote, Cruz put it this way: “We are at the edge of a cliff, staring downward.”
Now, Cruz was over that cliff, having been trounced 53 to 36 percent in his last-gasp effort to keep Trump from the nomination. In a detail the film-buff candidate Cruz would appreciate, he left Indiana with the same number of delegates as future senator John Blutarsky’s grade-point average in Animal House: zero-point-zero.
Still, Cruz looked like he was ready for the “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” speech. He was going to fight.
“Will we hold fast to our founding values of rewarding talent, hard work and industry?” he asked. “Or will we continue on that path of creeping socialism that incentivizes apathy and dependency?”
The crowd roared.
“Will we keep America safe from the threats of nuclear war and atomic terrorism?” he thundered. “Or will we pass on to future generations a land devastated and destroyed by the enemies of civilization?”
More raucous cheers.
Cruz smiled. If he has a good quality, it is that he’s not easily deterred by criticism. As he took the stage that night, he surely knew that former Speaker of the House John Boehner had recently called him “Lucifer in the flesh,” and that fellow senator Lindsey Graham had said, “If you kill Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody could convict you.” Likewise, when it was revealed Cruz once stated that one has no inherent right to “stimulate one’s genitals,” his college roommate Craig Mazin popped up to call him a hypocrite who’d whacked it plenty in college.
During the campaign, surprising numbers of Americans were even willing to believe Cruz might also be the Zodiac Killer. The infamous Bay Area murders began two years before Cruz was born, but 38 percent of Floridians at one point believed Cruz either was or might be the Zodiac.