Candidates like Donald Trump are exciting. Trump is guaranteed to bring out thousands to his events and generate copious decibels of noise. He has built a campaign on telling it like it is and refusing to be politically correct.
Ted Cruz, on the other hand, is boring. He brings hundreds to his events and utters Ronald Reagan’s name a few times to get the crowd going. His demeanor is confident but not quite as in-your-face as Trump is. But for those afraid of what Trump stands for, Cruz may be the far more dangerous candidate.
For one, Cruz is much more reliably conservative. For instance, Trump donated money to the Carter campaign — against Reagan no less. While Cruz has consistently advocated against abortion, Trump was pro-life until the last few years, and has just recently gotten harsher on issues like gun laws and health care.
I’m sure he has changed as a person, but Trump seems to be saying exactly what the people want to hear. President Trump would act differently than candidate Trump. As Jimmy Carter put it, Trump is “malleable” while Cruz is not.
The biggest difference between the two is that Cruz knows what he’s doing. Take last weekend’s Colorado nominating process, for example. I call it a process because it was not a primary, nor a caucus. At the nominating convention, “voters” decided the 34 delegates who would attend the national convention (the one in Cleveland). Cruz ended up with every single delegate.
The Cruz campaign had volunteers on the ground handing out lists of the delegates it wanted. Trump’s organization was not quite as extensive. This is a problem he has had throughout the primary campaign. As a result, Trump’s difficult delegate math got even tougher, and the odds of a contested convention got even bigger.
Trump’s problem is one shared by a lot of far-right candidates of his sort. The enthusiasm and energy are easy; the organization is much harder. Furthermore, these sorts of candidates elicit a response from all parts of the political spectrum — Ted Cruz has become the anti-Trump.
This is why far-right candidates and parties struggle to make head way, both in the US and in Europe. In France for instance, the National Front (FN) can never quite knock either of the traditionally powerful parties out of office. French elections can go to a runoff between the top two candidates, and if the FN is one of them, the rest of France unites to keep it out of office.
While the US is of course different, I think we could see that effect in November if Trump wins. He would elicit the same type of response that the FN does. Moderate independents and even some Republicans would ensure a Democratic victory. But I’m not sure Cruz would elicit this response. Even though he is historically more conservative in his views than Trump, he won’t be perceived as an extremist. And that’s what should make a Cruz candidacy scary for liberals.