Ted Cruz has notched another underwhelming performance in the Northeast. OK, “underwhelming” is a bit generous. He lost all five states that were up for grabs Tuesday — each and every one by at least 35 percentage points — and finished third, behind John Kasich, in four of five. Cruz’s poor showing in such blue states — Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — didn’t come as a surprise, but it illustrates the fundamental weakness of Cruz’s campaign. He is a factional candidate: He does well only with “very conservative” voters; moderate Republicans don’t like him, and even “somewhat conservative” voters aren’t in love with him.
When Cruz launched his campaign more than a year ago, I was skeptical of his chances for exactly this reason. I noted at the time that he would be the most conservative nominee for either major party since at least Barry Goldwater in 1964. More recent social conservative candidates who resemble Cruz, such as Pat Buchanan in 1996, Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012, struggled to get much above 20 percent of the total primary vote. Cruz has done a tad better than that, but not much.