Ted Cruz surprised the nation by suspending his presidential campaign after stumbling in the Indiana primary. He seemed content to continue for the long haul, but Cruz and his backers already sank a reported $112 million during primary season. Once it became mathematically impossible for Cruz to win (or even justify a contested convention), the Texas senator moseyed on home. After election spectators recovered from disbelief, people erupted with glee to see arguably the party’s least likable candidate take a bow. In the cold, harsh daylight, the nation then realized that only one person — not John Kasich — stands between Donald Trump and a gold-plated White House. He will compete against Hillary Clinton (or if something drastic happens, Bernie Sanders) in eventual, fiery debates, but that won’t happen for months.
Cruz may have left the building, but he’s not gone. Trump described his former rival as “one hell of a competitor” who did a “brave thing” by leaving the race. Trump vowed to unite Republicans, but he’ll be haunted by the shadow of Cruz for months. How so? Trump may be the presumptive nominee, but Cruz’s move presents these lingering challenges for Trump.
Trump As A Lone Wolf Isn’t A Pretty Picture
The real estate mogul fancies himself a political outsider and has fashioned himself as one even as he’s thrust his wallet in politics for many decades. But Trump doesn’t like to be alone. He’s a social creature and has relished interacting with his Republican rivals. He cannot thrive without conflict, and so, he’ll be out of his element for a few months. He may grow bored of being “all alone” at the GOP kids’ table, and he’ll have to adjust to the task of proving himself.
Trump must transition from thinking and acting like a bombastic primary candidate to a more well-rounded one suited for a general election. Part of this task will involve repairing a fractured Republican party (which is partially his fault). And not only will he have to act “presidential” in order to appeal to a wider swath of voters, but he won’t have anyone to push around for the next few months. Sure, he can tweet-shout at Clinton, but it’s time for Trump to start acting like a grown-up. He’ll not only need to stop throwing, shots but also cope without the resulting jolts of pleasure.
What will Trump do in the two months preceding the GOP convention? He followed up Cruz’s concession by saying he’d continue to campaign. He doesn’t want to disappear and materialize out of nowhere this summer. But he has to stay visible without feeding his ego through a constant stream of attacks on others.
Trump Will Have To Focus On The Issues
Trump’s rise has largely been based upon his gregarious personality and sweeping statements, which include his motto, “Make America Great Again.” Trump wavers on important issues like abortion, and his Indiana victory speech briefly touched upon his desire to “bring back our jobs.” Yet Trump needs to go deeper than this basic promise, which remains vague when he manufactures so many of his own products overseas. This is the case with many of his nebulous platform stances. Instead of talking about a massive, flashy wall, Trump will need to get specific on the issues. He should have plenty of time to do so, because Sanders is likely to ignore any insults for the next few months, and Clinton may somewhat engage, but remains distracted by her fellow Democratic contender.
In the meantime, Trump may find it difficult to drop his flashy ways and hone in on swing voters. For starters, he’ll need to stop insulting women and minorities if he wants to capture any wavering Democrats, Independents, and even Republicans who find themselves on the line. This is entirely possible with a conscious effort by Trump, who has succeeded so far upon a populist message. He’s not super right-wing or religious, and he can morph according to his whims. Does he possess enough political prowess to set ego aside and act “presidential” longer than the duration of one speech?
Cruz’s Loss Is Also A Huge Win For Democrats
With the Republican sideshow on hold for a few months, a media focus may shift to watching Sanders and Clinton continue to duke it out over Wall Street. This added attention will work a few effects. First, the Democrats will enjoy free publicity, so they won’t have to spend as many dollars to spread their messages. Second, Sanders could actually scoop up a decent portion of disillusioned Cruz voters. Can you imagine? A voter moving from Cruz to Sanders faces one hell of a shift, but many Cruz supporters remain vehemently opposed to Trump and view Clinton as corrupt. So, stranger things have happened. In addition, Clinton may become more defensive and launch preemptive attacks against both men who present a threat to her candidacy. Trump must be ready to engage with an issued-focused stance, or Clinton’s devotees will bring up their “woman cards.”
Here’s the video of Trump’s victory speech following Cruz’s announcement. This is a far cry from the flashy guy who, only two months ago, celebrated by reenacting an infomercial during a speech.