MINNEAPOLIS — Nearly two hours into a Ted Cruz lovefest in a gaudy Hilton ballroom downtown, Glenn Beck held up a golden ticket which he inexplicably claimed came straight from Charlie Bucket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
“Our golden ticket is the Constitution,” shouted Beck, somehow able to yell at the top of his lungs without water for over an hour. The metaphor, delivered among long tangents about George Washington’s mapmaking abilities and stories about Beck’s illustrious career at Fox News, actually struck a nerve with fans in the crowd waving red-white-and-blue “Choose Cruz” signs.
For them, Cruz is a fervent constitutionalist with a devil-may-care attitude about critics on Capitol Hill and in the media. When they vote, or in Minnesota’s case, caucus for Ted Cruz, they know what they’re going to get. And Donald Trump is a scary wild-card option, waffling on everything and threatening the fate of the country as we know it.
“There is so much garbage out there about Trump,” 81-year-old Betty Marquardt told The Daily Beast. “If it would only come out, I think Trump would be sort of scary. He’ll say one thing and then he’ll say something else. He’s not even sure how many years he’s been audited. It depends on where he is as to what he wants to say and how he wants to say it.”
Marquardt, who like many Cruz supporters at the event said their second choice would be Marco Rubio before this reporter was even able to finish asking the question, called Trump “childish” and said he calls people names too much.
Trump, who leads in many Super Tuesday state polls with the noticeable exception of Minnesota, has bragged that he doesn’t have a ceiling of support because if someone like Cruz dropped out, he’d swallow up his voting base. But if these Minnesota voters are any indication, that may not be entirely true. Some wouldn’t even consider backing Trump as the nominee, let alone considering him as a second choice in a primary.
“If it was Donald Trump, I don’t think I could [vote],” 54-year-old Susan Richardson, a political activist, told The Daily Beast. “I would say that a lot of Republicans I know would not vote for Donald Trump.”
Richardson, without hesitation, said her second choice would be Rubio, because she believes he is still a conservative despite his co-authorship of the Gang of Eight immigration overhaul bill.
Trump has seemed impervious to declines in his poll numbers, even after he appeared on national television and refused to disavow the endorsement of a former KKK leader. But on a person-to-person level in Minnesota, those types of things make him an impossible choice.
“Now that’s scary,” 60-year-old Nancy Sathre said. “That is some scary business. I don’t even understand it.”
Beck used this as a talking point as well, running up to a poor soul in the crowd and rhetorically asking “I wake you up in the middle of the night and I say ‘Hey, the Klan. Are they bad?’ What do you say?”
Cruz fans painted a picture of Trump as manipulative, phony, and opportunistic, none of which inspire confidence in scary times.
“I think he’s a good actor and knows how to work the deal, pardon the pun,” Sathre said.
Minnesota is a state known for its progressivism, suggesting that maybe even among Republicans, Trump’s firebrand rhetoric is off-putting instead of exciting. Hours before Tuesday’s caucus was set to begin, no new polls had been conducted in the state, though. The most recent numbers, according to Real Clear Politics, indicate that Rubio holds a slight lead in Minnesota, with Cruz and Trump closely following behind. The Florida senator is hoping to count Minnesota as his first state win, making a last-minute trip here on Tuesday afternoon.
But even for the most ardent Cruz fans, who showed up to cheer Beck on as he stalked the stage in front of a Keep the Promise PAC banner, Trump seems like an unfortunate inevitability.
“I just don’t think he has morals,” 37-year-old Christine Stevens told The Daily Beast. She has already made a decision in the foreseeable general-election matchup.
“Honestly I would rather see Hillary Clinton in than Donald Trump.”