Wherever the party’s most ideological voters were, there he would be. If Obama was for it, he would be against it. Where conservatives were angry, he would channel their anger. Where they wanted a fighter; he would be a fighter. Wherever the party’s activists were gathered, on whatever issue -- social or economic, immigration or the flat tax -- he would be standing by their side.The Cruz campaign, Douthat says, was a test of the theory that Republicans win big when they advocate conservatism with absolutely no compromise. Cruz "ended up running with it further than most people thought possible," Douthat writes, but he ultimately fell short.
Douthat's conclusion is that True Conservatism wasn't what Republican voters were looking for after all:
But it turned out that Republican voters didn’t want True Conservatism... the entire Trump phenomenon suggests otherwise, and Trump as the presumptive nominee is basically a long proof against the True Conservative theory of the Republican Party....The problem for Cruz was that a lot of True Conservatives aren't in it for the conservatism. They're in it because they think the tougher and more aggressive a candidate is, the more likely it is that that candidate is going to kick the asses of conservatives' enemies -- liberals, Democrats, RINOs, non-whites, Muslims, poor people, women who have abortions, gun control supporters, and so on.
Trump proved that many evangelical voters, supposedly the heart of a True Conservative coalition, are actually not really values voters or religious conservatives after all, and that the less frequently evangelicals go to church, the more likely they are to vote for a philandering sybarite instead of a pastor’s son....
Finally, Trump proved that many professional True Conservatives, many of the same people who flayed RINOs and demanded purity throughout the Obama era, were actually just playing a convenient part. From Fox News’ 10 p.m. hour to talk radio to the ranks of lesser pundits, a long list of people who should have been all-in for Cruz on ideological grounds either flirted with Trump, affected neutrality or threw down their cloaks for the Donald to stomp over to the nomination.
Cruz was undermined when Trump came along with a different form of aggression -- one that, to Republican voters, seemed more likely to result in ass-kickings for their enemies. Trump spoke, and liberals had conniption fits! Plus, he'd been such a successful businessman! So he must be able to carry out all the ass-kicking he promises, which is more ass-kickings than Ted Cruz seems able to dish out!
So that's why Cruz lost the nomination. Yes, quite a few people thought he was following the correct path -- they actually might have been in it for the ideology. But others just wanted to see maximum ass-kickage, by any means necessary. And so they abandoned ideology for Trump.