U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas must win his home-state primary election on Super Tuesday to remain in the Republican presidential race. Recent polls have indicated the conservative lawmaker is likely to claim victory in the Lone Star State, but billionaire businessman Donald Trump is close behind. Meanwhile, the stakes are very high for Cruz.
Texas has 155 GOP delegates at stake, making it the party’s biggest single prize on Super Tuesday. If Cruz can win with a healthy plurality on his home turf, political analysts said it could put him close to even in the delegate race.
“If Ted Cruz cannot win in his backyard, he will have a very difficult time finding a pathway forward,” Brandon Rottinghaus, an associate professor of political science at the University of Houston, told the Hill Saturday. “Texas is critical for him not only in terms of the delegate chase but also in terms of the optics of winning the state tailor-made for your campaign.”
The RealClearPolitics average of presidential polls in Texas puts Cruz in the lead by 7.2 percentage points Saturday, with Trump in second place. And a survey released this week showed Cruz with a 15-point margin over the real estate mogul. But Trump outdistanced both Cruz and U.S Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in the Nevada caucuses last week to secure his third consecutive victory.
“Trump is succeeding everywhere right now, and Texas is not immune to that,” Matt Mackowiak, a Republican political consultant in Austin who isn’t aligned with any presidential candidate, told the Wall Street Journal Wednesday. “If Trump were to defeat Cruz in Texas, it would be an earthquake, an absolute earthquake.”
If a win in his or her home-state primary election appears unlikely, many a presidential candidate has historically dropped out of the race preemptively to avoid humiliation. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina wrapped up his 2016 White House bid in December to make sure his name was removed from the GOP ballot before the state’s Feb. 20 primary election, which Trump easily won.
During a rally in Houston Wednesday, Cruz called Texas “the crown jewel” of the 11 states voting Tuesday, but he didn’t predict a commanding victory for his campaign.
“The great state of Texas now has the opportunity to stand up and speak,” he reportedly said. “I believe we are poised to have a very good night on Super Tuesday.”
Even if Cruz can win his home-state primary, political analysts said it may not be enough in the event Trump claims victories in the other 10 states holding Republican contests.
“This should be his best day of his campaign, and obviously once you get past March 1, you start to get into states that are probably not as naturally welcoming for him,” GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak said in an interview with the Hill Saturday.