Tuesday night was both a tale of two parties, and a tale of two warring forces within a party. On the one hand, you've got the Democrats, with Hillary Clinton notching a slew of wins and pressing her already considerable advantage against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. On the Republican side, however, you saw a clear victory for Donald Trump, with Ted Cruz taking second place with wins in Texas and Oklahoma. Which prompted Lindsey Graham to utter this one quote that summed up the Republicans' Super Tuesday, chilling though it is.
For some background, Graham is a neoconservative senator from South Carolina and was running for the 2016 Republican nomination until he dropped out in December, and he's no fan of either of the top two Republican candidates left in the race. He's been incredibly vociferous and straightforward about his distaste for Trump, and just last week, he joked that if Cruz were murdered on the floor of the Senate and the case were tried there, nobody would be convicted. This might be a joke, but the reference to Cruz's massive personal unpopularity in the Senate is not.
Which is why it probably comes as a grim, horrifying realization to Graham that the Texas senator is now the last, best hope his party has ― if he wants to avoid presidential nominee Donald Trump, that is.
We may be in a position where we have to rally around Ted Cruz.
Frankly, this is a feeling which a lot of Republicans can probably relate to. When the GOP race began last year, flush with a staggering 17 candidates, if you’d polled all the so-called Republican establishment types within Washington, D.C. you could find, they probably would’ve told you that Trump and Cruz were the two least desired nominees of the lot. Even distant also-rans like Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, or Chris Christie wouldn’t have caused nearly as much heartburn in the halls of power.
But Cruz looks like the savior the GOP is stuck with, unless Marco Rubio can rattle off a series of wins in the next couple of months. He finally got things moving in the right direction on Tuesday night, winning his very first state (Minnesota), but it’s getting pretty late in the game. The only real question is whether the bloc of GOP voters who’ve been backing Trump could ever be marshalled to support Cruz in a general election, or any Trump alternative. Otherwise, it could be a chilling November for the Republican Party.