OK, so yes that sounds crazy. I'll be honest, when it popped into my head I thought I was crazy as well. But as I sat there and watched Ted Cruz abruptly and weirdly pull the plug on his magical Christian tour, something popped loose in my brain and just kept rattling around. And as The Donald strode to the podium an hour later, master over all he surveyed, I couldn't ignore the clattering sound between my ears.
Why did Ted Cruz end his campaign just like that? One second it was insults and epithets thrown in the general direction of The Orange One, the next second he was disappearing like a cartoon character that leaves a cloud version of itself in its wake. It seemed a truly puzzling moment from someone who just a day earlier gave every impression of being a man on a mission from God.
Which brings us back to that why? A robust delegate count still carries negotiating power to a party looking to unify at the convention. And Cruz could have further padded his numbers by winning in a places like Montana and South Dakota. Why did he immediately hand the convention to Trump? Both Cruz and John Kasich have been very clear about their desire to derail The Donald's seemingly inevitable momentum at the party convention. Just get to Cleveland seemed to be the totality of their strategy, even down to the odd couple maneuver of splitting up state primaries between them like the world's worst game of Risk. And yet just like that, Cruz handed the whole enchilada to Trump.
Except maybe that isn't what happened. In reality, the convention gambit had a huge problem. If one candidate prevailed at the convention, it left the other candidates with almost no options. Sure, we have heard people prattling on about a third party or independent run after the convention, but here is the nasty little problem with that theory: if you wait until after the convention to launch your sneak attack, the deadline to get on state ballots get in the way of this nefarious plan. So many of those deadlines have passed by the time the convention ends that you start with an almost insurmountable electoral deficit. In layman's terms, you're screwed.
But what if you exit the GOP contest? What if the whole plan is to launch a third party campaign before the convention, not after? Oh my goodness, the madness this unleashes is fabulously delicious. And if you are going to try a third way, you would be best served to do it this week before next week's first state deadline blows up in your face. Did I mention which state that is? It's big and huge and important, and oh yeah, it's Cruz's home state of Texas.
So you pull the plug early, get the ball rolling and by convention time, Trump strolls to the podium to become the candidate for a party whose members have already jumped ship to support Ted Cruz. The same Ted Cruz who is despised by the main middle chunk of his own party. The same Ted Cruz who had to force some fellow senators to endorse him by kidnapping their hamsters. OK, maybe not, but man, do they not like the man.
So, this may be a bit of a problem. In order for this Cruz-as-independent-candidate plan to work, the powers that be (read: donors) have to get off the sidelines and on board with this plan. And most of the powers that be look at Cruz like he's the bratty kid who won't shut up at the front of the class. Which brings me to the second part of Cruz's nefarious plan: his running mate: the man who has said up and down left and right, and every way you can possibly imagine that he does not want to be the presidential nominee.
But Paul Ryan never said he wouldn't be vice president, did he now? I know, I can almost sense the collective eye-rolling at this point in the story. Seriously, Paul Ryan, the man who would not be king jumps into the ring to join Lyin' Ted as a third party insurgent campaign? I mean, it is just about the craziest thing you have ever heard, right?
Except for most Republicans, a Cruz/Ryan ticket would be the real party, and Trump is, in fact, the insurgent. See, in this Alice in Wonderland election, left is right, up is down, and an independent ticket is, in fact, the party ticket. Then the entire GOP infrastructure swings into action, the Koch/Adelson money starts flowing, and the impressive Cruz ground game picks right up where they were. And if, and that's a big "if," they play their cards just right, all the state deadlines are made, and all the money does what it's supposed to do, they pull it off.
And lose the election.
Wait, what? Wasn't the whole plan here for Cruz and Ryan to win this? Nope, not really. Because (much like the "open convention" plan) the game is not to win, it's to make sure that no one wins. Not Cruz, not Trump not Clinton. That they energize the base so much, and the hatred of Clinton is so high, that nobody walks away with the required 270 electoral votes to become president come November
Which means (drum roll please), the United States House of Representatives picks the president. And the Speaker of the House would be? Oh yeah, Paul Ryan! I know, this seems surreal and ridiculous, but honestly, can you say this would be any weirder that anything else that has happened? And in a weird way, it's cleaner than trying some last second rule change at the convention. This route could actually unify the GOP once again. And so, this week, Cruz actually won the White House. Or not. But then again, this year, how would you even know?