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Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s easy win in Wisconsin’s GOP primary last week did more than just give hope to the #NeverTrump faction of Republicans desperate to stop Donald Trump. By performing well with a broad range of voters, including the less-educated and less-conservative ones Trump usually attracts, Cruz showed that he has a better chance of winning the GOP nomination than Republican leaders had supposed. One reason those leaders may have underestimated Cruz is that they generally despise him. Cruz has notched only two endorsements from his fellow senators, and one of those came from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who likened the choice between Trump and Cruz to “being shot or poisoned.”
But Cruz is showing that sentiment among Washington political elites doesn’t necessarily reflect the sentiment outside of Washington. If he goes on to cinch the nomination — a possibility that’s becoming likelier by the day — it won’t be the first time Washington insiders have made a giant analytical error in a presidential primary. Cruz’s experience in the 2016 primary is almost identical to Hillary Clinton’s in 2008 — only in reverse.
Back then, Clinton had just won reelection to a second Senate term from New York, although no one expected her to serve out her tenure. Instead, party leaders in Washington regarded Clinton as the inevitable Democratic nominee and almost certainly the next president. (Party insiders were so sure of this that when I published an Atlantic cover story questioning Clinton’s strength as a presidential candidate, one of her top advisers informed me that I’d ruined my career.) What prompted my skepticism about Clinton was that voters and party officials I’d talked with outside of Washington had clear reservations about her support for the Iraq War and thus about her candidacy. In the end, of course, they wound up supporting what those same insiders considered the no-hope candidacy of Barack Obama.Read the rest of this op-ed HERE.
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