So why should Cruz prevail? To judge by how things have been unfolding in recent weeks, the answer is apparently that his campaign should be rewarded for mastering the labyrinthine rules that determine how delegates are chosen in states across the country. If Cruz and his surrogates can ensure that his supporters get named as delegates, and if his campaign can dragoon a couple hundred uncommitted delegates into falling in line at the convention, then he will have a good chance of crossing the 1,237 threshold on the second ballot or a subsequent one.
But does that make any political or moral sense? Why should the Republican Party pick as its standard bearer the best rule-follower of them all when he also happens to be an extremist who’s widely disliked in the party and holds little potential for more mainstream appeal? Isn’t that kind of arbitrary and even nonsensical? Wouldn’t it make more sense to use a different criterion?
I suspect it’s something like this line of reasoning that’s kept Kasich in the race for so long. He’s won only his home state and looks unlikely to win any others. He’s insurmountably behind in the delegate count. He still trails Rubio in the popular vote five weeks after the latter suspended his campaign. Yet he keeps plugging along, hoping against hope that if Trump fails to secure the nomination after the first ballot in Cleveland, the delegates will look at the three men still standing and decide to vote for the best general election candidate instead of the best rule follower.