Ted Cruz, the insurgent Texan whose presidential campaign was fueled by disdain for Washington, dropped out of the 2016 race Tuesday night, removing the last major hurdle in Donald Trump’s quest to become the Republican nominee for president.
The exit comes after a series of desperate moves to keep his candidacy afloat in recent weeks, including naming former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina as his running mate in a bizarre announcement where Cruz spoke for a half hour and Fiorina sang to his young daughters.
In his last day on the campaign trail, Cruz unloaded on Trump, calling the businessman a”pathological liar” and a “narcissist” who was proud of being a “serial philanderer.” The attacks were reminiscent of the broadsides Sen. Marco Rubio launched against Trump in the waning days of his own presidential campaign — and a far cry from the lavish praise Cruz heaped on Trump for most of 2015, declaring, “I like Donald Trump.”
Cruz’s campaign hit its zenith in February when he resoundingly won the Iowa caucuses, due in large part to months of cultivating grassroots support in the state. But it soon became a roller-coaster ride of crushing losses in states where Cruz expected to do well, including South Carolina and Georgia, followed by resounding wins in his home state of Texas and Wisconsin. Cruz’s campaign used its grasp of the delegate process to beat Trump at state conventions where delegates were chosen, but it was not enough to overcome the businessman’s tally and strength with the electorate.
The fact that Cruz remained one of the last candidates standing in a once-crowded field would have been viewed as improbable when he entered the race 14 months earlier. Cruz, the first major candidate to enter the race, is a first-term senator best known for getting under the skin of his Senate colleagues and championing controversial tactics to block the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He was painted as a long-shot underdog who was too religious and conservative to advance past the early nominating contests.
But his campaign had a meticulous strategy it planned to roll out over the year that followed, and it started working soon after he announced.
“It is the time for truth. It is the time for liberty. It is the time to reclaim the Constitution of the United States,” Cruz said during his campaign kickoff at Liberty University, which was founded by the fundamentalist preacher Jerry Fallwell.
Cruz was immediately buoyed by impressive fundraising and the national platform that comes with announcing first. Groups backing the senator raised $31 million during the first week of his candidacy, and the campaign raked in $4 million.
The Texas Republican’s campaign employed a strategy of slowly introducing Cruz to a national audience while furiously working to shore up support with local activists and evangelical leaders in the first four voting states and the South, where the campaign expected Cruz to do well.
The campaign also talked about securing the support of delegates to the July convention almost as soon as it launched, envisioning Cruz in a head-to-head matchup with an establishment rival. The campaign sent emissaries to far-flung places such as Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands to try to lock down delegate support over the summer.
It was a campaign that reflected its candidate: methodical, strategic and data-driven. Cruz’s campaign deployed a sophisticated data strategy that used psychographic information to appeal to the fears or hopes of potential voters.
Cruz touted his outsider status and contempt for what he called the “Washington cartel” of politicians and lobbyists in politics to get rich. He made the enmity of his Senate colleagues a point of pride, joking about needing a “food taster” in the Senate dining room. He made it clear that no other candidate would get to the right of him, particularly on the issue of immigration.