A Republican ticket with presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at the top of is now the most likely chance the GOP has to defeat presidential candidate Donald Trump and potentially win the general election.
The idea that someone like former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida or even currently-running Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio could get the nomination on a second-ballot vote at the convention after Trump loses the first ballot is the stuff of pure GOP elite fantasy.
Another possibility would be for the party to throw its weight behind a 'unity' candidate like House Speaker, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. However, something like this would (rightly) be seen as profoundly undemocratic by supporters of both Trump and Cruz, and may lead to a full-scale revolt within the party. This would be a risky bid by someone who would only have about four months to cobble together a campaign organization to take on the Democratic nominee, and it could very well backfire.
Cruz is the only logical option for the GOP establishment, even if its leaders believe supporting Cruz may be as dangerous as supporting Trump in the long run.
Even if he is hated by the vast majority of his colleagues in the Senate, Republican leaders can be sure that Cruz will govern as a conservative and will pursue right-wing policies with the (likely) backing of a fully Republican Congress. Trump runs the risk of potentially being a loose cannon whose nomination may flip the Senate to the Democrats, and who may weaken the GOP's grip on the House of Representatives.
John Kass of The Chicago Tribune called for establishment figures to rally behind Cruz on March 9 before Trump's favorability ratings started to severely dip. Evidence shows Republican figures are warming up to Cruz, even if they do not particularly like him: Mitt Romney, former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, former 2016 presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have all endorsed Cruz.
Trump's most prominent GOP support right now is coming from Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, former 2016 presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, and Gov. Rick Scott of Florida. The establishment, at least the portion of the establishment that has endorsed a candidate, clearly prefers Cruz.
Cruz has run a tight, solid campaign, bereft of the constant name-calling, berating and violence that has come to characterize Trump's campaign events. Cruz is focusing on currying favor with Republican donors in places where the Republicans are normally slated to lose, such as New York and California, and where Trump is slated to win big in the Republican race, according to The New York Times.
Trump has spent the entire campaign trying to gain the support of the angriest part of the electorate, while basically pushing out everyone else. Alternatively, Cruz has patiently focused on trying to win new friends and supporters. That strategy seems to be paying off in spades and will be important for Cruz to gain more delegates in the weeks and months before the convention.
It may be that Iowa actually did pick the eventual Republican nominee this year after all. A Cruz candidacy would be more dangerous to Democrats than Trump and may lessen the chance that the Republican Party collapses.