The Buzz

Analysis: Ted Cruz didn’t have the night he wanted

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz begins the post-Super Tuesday phase of his campaign Wednesday with a visit to Overland Park and something else:

Decidedly less mo-jo than he had once hoped for out of Tuesday’s big set of elections.

The game plan from day one in the Cruz campaign was a Super Tuesday romp. The day’s slate of elections was tailor-made for Cruz with a slew of Southern states on the menu: Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, Oklahoma, Virginia and his native Texas.

All those states arguably were fertile ground for the staunch conservative.

And yet, Cruz walked away with just two of those states — Oklahoma and, of course, his home state of Texas, which was the day’s biggest delegate prize. But Texas, as big and diverse and sprawling as it is, is hardly something to brag about considering that it’s the state Cruz represents in the U.S. Senate.

He was supposed to win it.

If he had lost it, his campaign was over.

In his victory speech Tuesday night, Donald Trump congratulated Cruz on winning the state, but pointed out more than once how hard Cruz had to work to win it. That, of course, was a dig.

Tuesday was supposed to be the day that Cruz ended Trump’s reign atop the GOP heap. That didn’t happen.

Instead, Trump, the ultimate New Yorker, wound up winning big in the South.

Now the going gets even tougher for the senator. Easy targets where Cruz can win become harder to find, save for some caucus states in the days ahead.

Yes, he’s won more states than any non-Trump candidate. Yes, he’s got a shot at winning Kansas Saturday even though Trump led in an early poll. Social conservative Rick Santorum easily carried the state in the 2012 caucuses, and Cruz comes closer to matching Santorum’s profile than any other contender.

But Cruz ultimately fell short on Super Tuesday, and that sting may never go away.

His hope may now lie in the unfathomable. No less a figure than South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is suggesting that the party might have to rally around Cruz if it wants to stop Trump.

Given how notoriously unpopular Cruz is in the U.S. Senate and in Washington in general, that’s a mighty flimsy prospect.