Ted Cruz’s first big victory celebration, replete with confetti, champagne, and the kind of stemwinding speech that would become a hallmark of his election-night events, came at the Iowa state fairgrounds on February 1. He’d just won the Iowa caucuses, a grueling and hard-fought victory nearly a year in the making. The political cognoscenti still loathed him, but they could no longer dismiss him.
On Monday, 91 days later, Cruz found himself 475 miles away in Indianapolis, and his chances of becoming the Republican nominee were withering. On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, an overflow crowd left supporters shut outside in the bitter cold, expressing frustration to campaign aides in the restrained argot of the Midwest. The night before the primary here in Indiana, Cruz filled just two-thirds of a pavilion at the state fairgrounds. He told those in attendance that a historic choice was at hand, but they hardly seemed to believe it.
Indiana was supposed to be friendly territory for Cruz, who burst onto the national scene in 2012 by harnessing the tea-party movement, and was the first to grasp that the simmering anger that propelled him to office could also fuel a presidential campaign. Hoosier State Republicans had traded Richard Lugar for the archconservative Richard Mourdock the same year Cruz was elected to the Senate, and as recently as a few weeks ago there was reason to believe they could revive Cruz ahead of the campaign’s final stretch. But in the end, like those in so many other states this cycle, they broke for a candidate with fewer conservative bonafides but more of a claim on the outsider status and anger that Cruz once owned.
Cruz lost Indiana to Donald Trump by 16 points on Tuesday, and with it any shot at clinching the nomination at a contested convention in Cleveland this summer. Afterward, he announced before a ballroom of supporters that he was suspending his campaign.