When Ted Cruz announced his run for the presidency, the big question was whether he had only a small chance to win or no chance at all. Since then, a lot has gone right for him.
Mr. Cruz still does not enjoy an easy road to the Republican nomination, not by any means. But it is a testament to just how strange this year has been that a candidate like him, who is despised by many of his own Republican colleagues in the Senate, now has a plausible path to the Republican nomination.
Some of his opportunity is the result of his own strength. He has succeeded in building a robust campaign organization, buoyed by fund-raising tallies of the sort we generally haven’t seen from anti-establishment, conservative candidates. Fund-raising isn’t everything, but it’s a big part of why candidates like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum have not been serious contenders this time.
A lot of Mr. Cruz’s opening, however, reflects the weakness of his rivals, not his strength. Few would have guessed, for instance, that his solid but hardly astonishing $26 million in official campaign contributions (not counting outside groups) would be more than Jeb Bush’s total. By comparison, George W. Bush raised more than both candidates combined by this point 16 years ago (when a dollar was worth more). Back in the summer, I certainly would not have guessed that the combined support for Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker — Mr. Walker is now out of the race — would add up to just 16 percent in national polls, with three months to go before Iowa.
The candidates who are faring well in the polls — Ben Carson and Donald Trump — are also good news for Mr. Cruz. In just about any other year, Mr. Cruz would be the worst-case scenario for the party’s establishment. But compared with the likes of Mr. Trump and Mr. Carson, he seems reasonable and conventional. That might let him become a candidate the party could grudgingly accept. His debate performances, especially the one last week, have only helped in this regard.
Mr. Cruz hasn’t been faring particularly well in the polls, but there is a path forward.