The final results of the highly disorganized Nevada Republican caucus are still being counted, but guess who's already piped in with his thoughts on the night? That's right, Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Donald Trump is the winner of the caucuses, dealing yet another blow to Cruz's fledgling campaign. However, in keeping with the standard set by 2016 rival Marco Rubio, Cruz presented his performance in Nevada as, well, a good thing! Ted Cruz's Nevada speech was clearly intended to convince his supporters — and maybe some in the media — that he still has a legitimate shot at the nomination.
In truth, it wasn't that surprising, because Team Cruz was openly trying to build this narrative before the voting was even finished. As the caucuses were underway, a source on the Cruz campaign told CNN that the campaign would be happy with a "third-place win." Third-place, of course, isn't a win at all, but hey, you play the hand you're dealt, right?
In this, Cruz was taking a page from the Rubio playbook. In the Iowa caucuses, Rubio came in third place, and yet he nevertheless gave a speech depicting himself as the winner of the night. It actually worked, kind of: In the days after the vote, many news outlets rushed to declare Rubio "the real winner" in Iowa.
As the Nevada results were being counted, Cruz took to the stage and spoke to supporters, declaring that the results had served the function of "narrowing the race" and "presenting a clear choice" to conservative voters.
Here's what Cruz said.
They're still counting the ballots, so we don't know the exact result. But I want to congratulate Donald Trump on a strong evening tonight. And I want to congratulate the grassroots, the conservatives across this country, who have come together behind this campaign.
When we started this campaign nearly a year ago, there were 17 candidates in the race. The role of the first four primaries historically has been to narrow the field, and we have seen the first four states do exactly that: Narrow the field.
Now at this point, we've had four primaries. History teaches us that nobody has ever won the nomination without winning one of the first three primaries, and there are only two people who've won one of the first three primaries: Donald Trump and us. And the undeniable reality that the first four states have shown is that the only campaign that has beaten Donald Trump, and the only campaign that can beat Donald Trump, is this campaign.
If you are one of the 65 percent of Republicans across the country that doesn't think Donald is the best candidate to go head to head with Hillary, who believes we do better in elections when we actually nominate a conservative, then the first four states have performed a vital function of narrowing this race and presenting a clear choice. You can choose between two Washington deal makers, or one proven, consistent conservative.
One week from today will be the most important night of this campaign. One week from today is Super Tuesday. Eleven states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and the great state of Texas. One week from today, the most delegates that are awarded on a single day will be awarded, next Tuesday. The role of the first four states is to narrow the field and give Super Tuesday a clear choice, and now the voters can decide.
If you want a president who will stop amnesty, ask yourself who has led the fight against amnesty. If you want a president who will repeal Obamacare, ask yourself who has led the fight against Obamacare. If you want a president who will stand for life, and marriage, and religious liberty, ask yourself who's led the fight defending life, and marriage and religious liberty.
If you want a president who will defend the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms... I've been told folks in Nevada kind of like their guns. As a Texan, I understand. And let me tell you something, you look at those Super Tuesday states, they like their guns, too. And if you want to protect that Second Amendment to stop a liberal justice from reading [sic] the Second Amendment out of the bill of rights, ask yourself who has led the fight to defend the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
If you want to see America standing unapologetically alongside the nation of Israel, ask yourself who has led the fight to stand, unshakably, with the nation of Israel. And if you want a president who, on day one, will rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal, if you want a president who will utterly and completely destroy ISIS, ask yourself who has led the fight against this Iranian nuclear deal, against radical Islamic terrorism, and who is best prepared to keep America safe.
Elections are about choices, and there are clear choices in this race. If you want more Washington deals, if you want more corporate welfare, if you want more cronyism, if you want more debt, if you want fewer jobs, if you want lower wages, you got two candidates to choose from in this field.
On other hand, if you want a president that says no to the bipartisan corruption in Washington, that stands up to the lobbyists and special interests, that stands up to the debt, that says we will not bankrupt our kids and grandkids, we will bring back millions of high paying jobs, we will see wages going up, we will make young people coming out of school have three, four, five job offers, and we will ensure that our kids and grandkids have a brighter tomorrow, a greater future, a more bountiful America.
That's what this choice is about. I want to thank the great people of Nevada and I wanna say, I cannot wait to get home to the great state of Texas. Tonight, I'll sleep in my bed for the first time in a month, and then it will be back to the campaign trail in Texas and all across Super Tuesday, energizing and building that Reagan coalition, those courageous conservatives, libertarians, evangelicals, young people, and Reagan Democrats, all coming together.
Tonight, we are one step closer to morning in America. We are one step closer to turning the pages on the failures of the Obama-Clinton disaster and getting back to the Constitution, getting back to the free market principles, getting back to the unbelievable opportunity that is the American dream. Thank you and God bless you!
That's a pretty rosy-eyed interpretation of the results. But make no mistake: This was not a good night for Cruz.