In retrospect, Cruz’s accomplishment in getting to the eve of the caucuses as the putative second-place — or possibly first-place — finisher has been pretty remarkable. Two rivals for the Evangelical vote had deep roots and a record of victory in Iowa: 2008 winner Mike Huckabee and 2012 winner Rick Santorum. Cruz outorganized both of them and snagged the Christian-right endorsements that helped them forge their winning coalitions. The longtime governor of his own state, Rick Perry, had major Christian-right street cred of his own, and experience in Iowa. Cruz outlasted Perry, who later endorsed him. Scott Walker was an early favorite to win Iowa, in part because of an alleged deep affinity with Evangelicals. Cruz outlasted him, too, and also outlasted Bobby Jindal, the smartest guy in every room, who made Evangelicals his obsessive target. And Cruz endured a brief but massive boom of Evangelical support, in Iowa and nationally, for Dr. Ben Carson. He’s also become the de facto second choice of libertarian-leaning Republicans pending the likely early demise of Rand Paul’s once-promising campaign. Like every other candidate, Cruz has been intermittently challenged and marginalized by Donald Trump, but through most of the invisible primary Cruz has handled that better than anyone else.
The Cruz campaign is in fine financial shape and has a very clear path to the nomination with the big breakthrough planned for the so-called “SEC primary” on March 1.
But it’s possible he’s losing his mojo at the worst possible moment.