Ted Cruz's victory over Donald Trump last night was a spectacular coup for the senator from Texas. While it doesn't mean he is a shoo-in for the nomination, the psychological effect it will have on the Republican electorate cannot be underestimated.
As Chez Pazienza pointed out yesterday, Trump losing is actually a bigger deal than Cruz winning:
For a normal candidate, a second-place showing in Iowa isn’t a death knell. But Trump is different and he always has been. The thing about Trump is that his entire campaign is based on the premise that he’s a winner. That’s what Trump does: he wins and doesn’t lose, ever. It’s why he’s able to get away with doing things other candidates would get creamed for. In fact, his ability to do anything he wants, no matter how offensive or grotesque, and never pay a price for it is a self-reinforcing part of his mystique. It proves conclusively that he can’t be taken down.
Now that Trump has been taken down in the first real test of his bombastic campaign, the myth of Trump the winner is effectively over -- for at least enough time for the conventional candidates to take back control of an election they were soundly losing. While this may ostensibly seem like a good thing to worried liberals and centrists, Ted Cruz is verifiably a far more dangerous a candidate than Donald Trump.
In March of 2013, in reference to Cruz, John McCain told the Huffington Post that "It's always the wacko birds on the right and left that get the media megaphone." This coming from a man who has tried to bomb every Muslim country on the planet. Because let us not forget, Ted Cruz is the asshole who read Dr Seuss for 21 hours as part of a ludicrous filibuster to de-fund Obamacare, and is so extreme most people in his own party thinks he is a nut job.
As Five Thirty Eight writer Harry Enten pointed out: "Ted Cruz is more conservative than every recent nominee, every other candidate who mounted a serious bid in 2012 and every plausible candidate running or potentially running in 2016." And to prove it, he posted this chart measuring how conservative each candidate was as measured by "DW-Nominate common-space scores (which are based on a candidate’s voting record in Congress), fundraising ratings (based on who donates to a candidate), and OnTheIssues.org scores (based on public statements made by the candidate)":
As you can see, Cruz is the first or second most conservative candidate on all three scales -- a horrifying statistic when you take into consideration the other names on the chart, including the likes of Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Herman Cain. Ted Cruz makes George W. Bush look like a liberal, which is truly insane if you remember anything about the Bush years and his government's relentless assault on the welfare state, poor people and the environment.
Again, Ted Cruz's victory in Iowa does not mean he will win the nomination -- there is still a long way to go and other frontrunners Donald Trump and Marco Rubio are likely to make strong showings in other states -- but the reality is that Cruz is now a serious, viable candidate for the nomination. And that should worry not only Americans, but the rest of humanity.