Back in January, when the Never Trump Republicans were still wavering on which candidate to throw their support behind, I wrote that Ted Cruz would never be the Republican nominee. It's always risky making predictions, because none of us like having egg on our faces, but my reasoning was that as bad as Donald Trump might seem to some Republicans, Cruz is far, far worse.
The more voters got to know Cruz, I reasoned, the more they'd realize he's a slick operator who's never seen an issue he wouldn't happily distort, never encountered a truth he couldn't bend. Cruz is an unabashed theocrat, vowing to demolish the wall between church and state. Cruz is utterly without compassion -- he's a man who says the uninsured can get their healthcare via emergency rooms, and as Texas solicitor general once fought to keep a man in prison for 16 years for stealing a calculator.
The New York Times' David Brooks famously described Cruz's worldview as "pagan brutalism," with none of the compassion or mercy that used to be a selling point of Evangelical conservatives. Cruz, Brooks noted, likes to talk in apocalyptic terms, fearmongering as he assures voters that political opponents are leading the country toward doomsday like a Walking Dead villain of the month.
Since then, the Republican Party has briefly flirted with the possibility of nominating Cruz. After Jeb Bush dropped out of the race despite his $100 million campaign war chest, and Marco Rubio ended his campaign with a whimper after performing like a glitched-out automaton during a succession of debates, who else was left for the Never Trumpers to support?
For a while, it looked like the Texas senator was gaining traction. He won a handful of primaries, and began to peel away delegates from pro-Trump states via an underhanded strategy designed to negate the will of voters. He began building momentum, raking in donations and focusing his attacks on Trump. And he returned to the classic, tried-and-true Republican playbook of using social issues to rile up the base at campaign stops, saying increasingly ugly things about issues like gay rights.
In a campaign dominated by Trump, it was the first time the general public outside Texas really got to know Cruz, and people didn't like what they saw and heard.
In New York, Cruz' momentum was stopped cold when voters threw his derisive "New York values" quip back in his face, sending him packing from the Empire State without a single delegate despite his efforts to campaign there.
In the press, Cruz took a beating, with reporters reaching out to the candidate's former college roommates and associates and finding, to no one's surprise, that he was just as loathed and unpopular as a college kid as he is as a U.S. senator.
In late April, former Speaker of the House John Boehner famously called Cruz "Lucifer in the flesh," saying he'd "never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life."
And on April 26, to distract the public from the fact that he got trounced by Trump in another series of primaries, Cruz displayed his characteristic hubris and obnoxiousness by calling a press conference, bringing former GOP candidate Carly Fiorina on stage, and announcing she'd be his vice presidential nominee.
In a way, it's a good thing that the Republican party briefly flirted with the possibility of a Cruz nomination, because it put the spotlight on Cruz and made it clear that, yes, he is by far the worst choice to become leader of the free world. Trump may lack tact and have no patience for the decorum that comes with the office of the president, but that's his nature.
Cruz, by contrast, would delight in provoking everyone from his political allies and opponents, to countries like Iran and Russia. The U.S. might as well shutter the State Department and close every embassy if Cruz becomes president, because there would be no good diplomatic deed that couldn't be undone by a President Cruz.
Thankfully, it doesn't look like that will happen. People might not be happy with Trump, but it says volumes that with the historic efforts of Republicans to derail one of their own, the party still can't unite behind Cruz.
"If this has become a battle between fear and loathing," the New York Times' Gail Collins writes, "it appears that Republicans who know both candidates are deciding they'd rather be afraid."