About a month ago, shortly before the Wisconsin primary that he would soon after win, Ted Cruz made a very specific case: if a Republican presidential candidate can't win the party's nomination before the convention, dropping out is the obvious thing to do.
During an interview with WTMJ in Milwaukee, Cruz said of John Kasich, "I think any candidate that doesn't have a path to winning, that's the time you should suspend your campaign. Kasich has been mathematically eliminated. He needs more than 100% of the remaining delegates.... Kasich is a good an honorable man, but he doesn't have a path to win."
At the time, that might have seemed like a reasonable position, since Cruz believed there was still a chance he'd catch up to Trump and possibly even reach the 1,237-delegate threshold by June. But in the six primaries since Wisconsin, the Texas senator has earned a whopping two pledged delegates. A month after dismissing Kasich as a candidate who should obviously quit because he's been "mathematically eliminated," needing "more than 100% of the remaining delegates," Cruz awkwardly finds himself facing identical circumstances.
If the Republican senator followed the same principles he outlined just last month, Cruz would have no choice but to end his own campaign. And since he obviously doesn't want to do that, Cruz is instead moving the goalposts. Consider what the Texan told ABC's Martha Raddatz yesterday:
"You know, if you can't earn a majority, you can't unite the party. And that makes you a terribly weak general election candidate."
This is the wrong argument from the wrong candidate.
First, Cruz's standard for success on May 1 bears little resemblance to what he said on April 5. Candidates who simply make up new principles when the old ones become inconvenient tend to look a little desperate.
Second, Cruz's assumption that Donald Trump won't reach 1,237 delegates is looking a little shaky. In fact, by many counts, Trump actually has a pretty good chance of reaching the delegate threshold before the Cleveland convention -- and his odds are improving as some of Cruz's own backers start to waver as Trump's victories pile up.
And finally, Cruz is in the untenable position of questioning the scope and depth of Trump's support, despite the fact that Trump has built up a fairly impressive lead -- by just about every possible metric -- over Ted Cruz.
Look at that quote again: "You know, if you can't earn a majority, you can't unite the party. And that makes you a terribly weak general election candidate."
Maybe so, but that terribly weak general election candidate is crushing the candidate making the criticism. The question Cruz doesn't seem eager to answer is obvious: if Trump's support is so weak, what does that say about the senator who's trailing him badly?