You can imagine a world in which the Republican candidate running against Beto O’Rourke would feel overwhelmed by the sheer force of the energy on the opposite side. That’s not Ted Cruz. He’s created his advantage ruthlessly, defining the previously little-known O’Rourke as too liberal for what’s still a red state. It’s the only message he has time for, and he does not stray. Even when the polls were closer, even when he appeared to be in trouble, even when a normal candidate would have felt a little distraught about being portrayed as a pathological demon to O’Rourke’s authentic angel. Some candidates allow themselves, fatally, to answer questions directly, while others only stay on-message begrudgingly, perhaps after having touched the hot stove a time or two before. Cruz is the only politician I’ve seen who appears to enjoy the act of staying on-message as one of politics’, or life’s, grand pleasures…

My fascination with Cruz’s unbreakable discipline began when I followed him around New Hampshire during the 2016 presidential primaries. Not a single word, syllable, inflection, or chuckle would change between stump speeches. If a new syllable did enter the 20-minute speech, it wouldn’t be because he decided to riff, or loosen up, or just got too tired to keep it together. It would be because his data showed there were X number of voters in a particular county or town who put special emphasis on a particular issue. He does not say things that he has not calculated the pros and cons of saying. And he cannot be broken. Ask senators like Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson or Tennessee’s Bob Corker the same question three or four times, and they will eventually say something. Not Cruz.