Fourth and Long: Ted Cruz Fumbles On His Own 30-Yard Line

Bryan Crabtree
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Posted: May 03, 2016 12:01 AM
Fourth and Long:  Ted Cruz Fumbles On His Own 30-Yard Line

And, Donald Trump appears to be running it in for a touchdown!

In a Fox News townhall, Carly Fiorina compared Ted Cruz's chances against Donald Trump to a football game.  Fiorina stated, “In football, the 30 yard line ain’t a touchdown….1237 delegates is what it takes to get a touchdown and this guy [Ted Cruz] is gonna get it.”  That’s cute but off base.

Here's the analogy that matters: Ted Cruz and Donald Trump may both be somewhere around the 30-yard line.  However, the analogy would be most fitting to state that Ted Cruz is on his own 30 yard line.  Donald Trump is on Ted Cruz's 30-yard line.  

The problem with Ted Cruz's campaign, at this juncture, is that his quarterback – let's call him Tom Brady – is serving his four-game suspension for cheating.

I've long been on record as a big Ted Cruz supporter.   However, In a year such as this, I've often said we’re better off with a disruptor [Trump] than a staunch constitutionalist [Cruz].   Ted Cruz's presentation and his campaign’s set of arguments are simply put, boring.  You may not be a fan of Donald Trump. You may even be #nevertrump.   But, we have to appeal to the celebrity culture and the average voter in order to beat Hillary Clinton.  Cruz does not.  I’d rather not have Clinton.  Trump has the best chance of defeating her in the general election.  The fact can't be ignored that he has handily beaten 17 of the best conservative candidates when most pundits considered his chances near zero.  

I find sports analogies to be a great fit for political campaigns.   In basketball, when there's five minutes to go in the fourth quarter and you're down by 30 points the coach usually rests the starters and plays the second or third string. This happened in game five between my Atlanta Hawks and the Boston Celtics. The Celtics still had a shot in the playoffs but they rested their starters when the game was lost, likely to avoid injury.  In football, it is not uncommon for the starting quarterback or some of the starting players to be rested when there's very little time left in the game and the outcome is certain.  If there's a couple of minutes to go in the fourth quarter and you're down by three touchdowns (or up by as many) you take your best players off the field to rest.

The foregoing is evidence of a smart coach and smart players not sacrificing the future (avoiding injury) in order to be a hero in the present.

In other words, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina and John Kasich are far behind near the end of the fourth quarter and they're about to injure any hope for their future political success.

By contrast, Scott Walker was the first to drop out. His intact political capital was obvious in Wisconsin where his endorsement and credibility gave Ted Cruz an additional boost needed to win that state.  Walker recognized early that while he was a very strong candidate, this was not his year.

Rick Perry was a favorite in 2012, but barely made a ripple in his efforts for 2016.   Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won the Iowa caucus in 2008 but then lost steam shortly thereafter.  He stayed in the race exceptionally long even when it was obvious he had no shot at getting the nomination.  Fast forward to 2016's nomination process and he never gained traction. These are all examples of political injury resulting from continuing to fight for the win when they’d already lost.  

The best sports analogy for the 2016 Republican nomination is probably in basketball.  Donald Trump is akin to this year’s Golden State Warriors.  They bested the unbeatable record of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (for the most wins in a season).  Without the injured Steph Curry, arguably the best player in the NBA, they still defeated Houston in five games to advance to the second round.  Without Curry they also won game one by 12 points against the Portland Trail Blazers.  

Trump’s political gravity is as strong in politics as the Warriors are in basketball.  They both continue to defy all odds even when the team has injuries.   Trump has overcome his abortion comment injuries in Wisconsin, accusations against improprieties in his business record, his marriages and his past political associations (et. al).   All of these were ‘injuries’ he ‘couldn’t overcome.’  He seems to quickly rebound from his injuries and pivot to his strengths.

I suppose Cruz is hoping the referees will help him fix the game in the last minutes.  In presidential-politics, the referees are the delegates.  Unfortunately, many Cruz delegates have started calling the game for Trump.