After his most convincing victory yet over Donald Trump in Wisconsin, Ted Cruz sought on Wednesday to shed his reputation as a divisive bomb-thrower and position himself as the candidate who can bring the Republican Party together.
But it wasn’t clear whether it was working. In Washington and across the country, many mainstream Republicans who despise Trump — including many supporters of former candidate Marco Rubio — are still declining to support the senator from Texas, whose antagonism toward GOP leaders has been the centerpiece of his political rise.
The lukewarm reception highlighted the difficulty Cruz faces in recasting himself as a bridge builder after years of bridge burning. Many top Republicans remain strongly opposed to both Cruz and Trump and hold out hope that long-shot candidate John Kasich, or perhaps another Republican not in the race, can somehow clinch the nomination.
“I think stopping Donald Trump has got to be the number one goal, and to rally around Ted Cruz in these future primaries I think is important,” said billionaire GOP donor Frank VanderSloot, who backed Rubio. “But neither I nor very many of the people I know are enamored with Ted Cruz, and I think that everyone is hoping it is a brokered convention where we can have a third choice.”
Cruz’s attempts to broaden his appeal beyond evangelical Christians and tea-party activists will be crucial in the upcoming slate of Northeastern primaries, beginning on April 19 in New York. A Monmouth University poll released Wednesday showed Cruz trailing Trump and Kasich in the Empire State.
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