'NeverTrumps' should support Ted Cruz

Over the past few months, the Republican race has morphed from a seventeen-headed gorgon into a more manageable monster with four faces.

The first face belongs to front runner Donald Trump, who has run an idiosyncratic campaign, focused almost entirely on his own personality. He has no discernible platform, represents no clear faction of the GOP, and is running as Trump rather than as a Republican.

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz
Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images; Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images
Donald Trump and Ted Cruz

The next two faces are recognizably Republican. Ted Cruz, a respectable second, is running as the strong constitutional conservative. He favors a smaller government; decentralization of authority; a foreign policy grounded in the national interest; support for Israel; and resolute opposition to Islamist terror.

John Kasich, currently a distant third, pitches himself as a moderate, flexible conservative, steeped in fiscal rectitude, and likely to play well in a general election. Though he boasts a solid resume and polls well among independents and Democrats, his prospects for being anything other than a spoiler are minimal.

The fourth face belongs to an odd beast known as the #NeverTrump, a collection of Republican luminaries committed to beating something with nothing. The stated goal of this faction is a brokered convention leading to an undisclosed nominee other than Donald Trump.

Trump has noted — injudiciously, as always — that a convention he enters with a sizable delegate lead but leaves without the nomination could end in riots. The #NeverTrumps typically reply that the nominating process is complex, and that a candidate incapable of winning on the first ballot is hardly guaranteed a victory on the second. This response is legalistically correct, but obtuse.

The Republican Party need not "cheat" for primary voters to "feel cheated." Under the rules, primary or caucus results bind most delegates on the first ballot, but not on the second. A candidate who finishes a close second on an indeterminate first ballot, only to close the gap and win an outright majority on the second ballot, "looks like" a legitimate winner.

A candidate who receives few if any votes on the first ballot, yet pulls enough backroom deals to take a majority on the second, "looks like" a cheater.

Because voters are under no obligation to back their party's nominee in a general election, perception matters. While no one expects Donald Trump to accept defeat gracefully, the Republican Party has a clear interest in making his supporters feel respected. Voters who feel cheated may not riot, but they are unlikely to back the party or candidate who created that feeling.

All of which leads to a critical question: Why are so few #NeverTrumps backing Cruz strongly? Occam's Razor — the principle that the obvious conclusion is most often correct — suggests that notwithstanding the name and the hashtag, many of them are angling for #NeverTrumpOrCruz.

As #NeverTrumps, they may claim some moral high ground, but those who add #NeverCruz have no fig leaf. They are simply scheming to elevate a candidate with little or no support in the primaries in the hopes of maintaining their accustomed hold on power.

Cruz is a brilliant, idealistic young Latino, the devoted son of an immigrant preacher, a top student at Princeton and Harvard, and a courageous conservative warrior. Why is so much of the GOP's traditional leadership still refusing to embrace him as a dream candidate?

Perhaps because this same leadership, who orchestrated a loss to the unpopular Barack Obama in 2012, is intent upon once again pushing one of their own on a reluctant Republican Party. Rather than learning from successive defeats and an increasingly alienated base, this #NeverTrumpOrCruz madness now stands on the brink of shattering the GOP. It is hard to see the Republican Party surviving such a rupture—much less winning the election.

There is only one way forward for the Republican Party: It must continue its evolution from a party favoring crony capitalism and big government conservatism to the small government, free market conservative party that its base supporters demand. In 2016, Ted Cruz is the last, best hope for the Republican Party. For those of us who believe that Progressivism is destroying the country, he is the last, best hope for America.

It's time to drop the #Never nonsense and work to nominate Ted Cruz.

Commentary by Bruce Abramson, Ph.D., J.D. and Jeff Ballabon. Abramson is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, and director of policy at the Iron Dome Alliance. Ballabon is CEO of B2 Strategic where he advises and represents corporate and political clients on interacting with the government and media. He previously headed the communications and public policy departments of major media corporations including CBS News and Court TV. Follow them on Twitter @bdabramson and @ballabon.

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