Donald Trump’s path to the Republican Party nomination became significantly more straightforward last week when first Cruz, and then one day later, John Kasich dropped out of the race. It won’t be official until the party’s convention in late July, but with no opponents, Trump is the candidate in waiting. After Cruz and Kasich’s rather surprising campaign suspensions this week, we were reminded of all the men (and one woman) who signed up to win the Republican nomination this campaign cycle, and of the many ridiculous political memes from this election that are fit for a dystopian dark comedy. Here are nine memes and moments from the Republican primary the Internet won’t let you forget.
1. Ted Cruz’s Unfortunate Ending
“There is no substitute for the America that each and every one of us loves with all of our heart,” said Ted Cruz last Tuesday night as he announced the suspension of his campaign for president. It was a somber moment for Cruz and his supporters. He’d just lost the Indiana primary, which he’d hoped (and schemed with rival candidate John Kasich) to win. Then he elbowed his wife in the face as he attempted to embrace a group of people who’d been standing behind him :(
2. Ted Cruz, Zodiac Killer
While the first known reference to Ted Cruz as the serial killer who terrorized the Bay Area in the ’60s and ’70s is from a 2013 tweet, the meme gained prominence in the latter half of 2015. It’s hard to put a finger on why, exactly, people glommed onto this idea so enthusiastically. Sure, scientists have weighed in on the appeal of Cruz’s face, but, um, importantly, Cruz wasn’t even born when the Zodiac Killer began his reign of terror! (Photo via Ted Cruz Is the Zodiac Killer/Facebook)
3. John Kasich forgotten amid the chaos
The February 6 Republican presidential debate yielded one of the most immediately memorable moments in an election cycle that seems tailor-made for the Internet age; it’s one we’ve written about before. But if you were busy laughing at the sight of Ben Carson and Donald Trump standing aside as candidates strode past them onto the stage, you may not have noticed that the announcers completely forgot about John Kasich, who was slated to enter last. His head is visible poking out behind Trump and Carson, but the talking heads don’t call for him until Chris Christie says, “Where’s Kasich? Can I introduce Kasich?” It was a fitting introduction for a man who somehow lasted until the very end, but was never really a serious contender.
3. Marco Rubio’s talking points
It’s a bit of a slow burn, but in the video above (also from the February 6 debate… what a night), Marco Rubio answers several different questions with some variation of “Barack Obama knows exactly what he’s doing,” whether it’s relevant to the question or not. Politicians often rely on soundbites and talking points, but at the very least, we should expect someone running for president to be capable of tailoring those points to the question at hand. Instead, Marco Rubio, who sounded like a broken robot, didn’t meet that baseline expectation.
As various outlets happily pointed out in the following days, this wasn’t a one-time problem, but a particularly obvious example of a method Rubio relied on over and over again. And Chris Christie takes obvious pleasure in pointing that out; at the end of this exchange, he says, “It gets very ugly when [Marco] gets off his talking points.” While he kept up his campaign for another month and a half, this was the point at which many people stopped hinging their hopes on Rubio as the establishment candidate who could stop Donald Trump.
4. Ben Carson, mild-mannered brain surgeon and violent criminal
Ben Carson’s unusually calm demeanor was the subject of much mockery and attention during his run for president, not least because he was prone to making wildly controversial statements with a quiet smile on his face, hands folded together. On the campaign trail, Carson liked to talk about the temper he had as a young man, and the fact that he tried to stab a close friend before finding God and becoming a renowned doctor. The idea that this man, so unflappably calm that he could become a national laughingstock and continue on with the exact same serene smile on his face, once tried to stab someone is so outlandish that Saturday Night Live devoted an entire sketch to it.
5. Chris Christie’s existential crisis
For a strong politician who was considered a natural presidential nominee, Chris Christie had a surprisingly tepid run this year. The brightest moment of his campaign was probably the debate in which he attacked Marco Rubio’s talking points. Beyond that, the meme shared ’round the web was Chris Christie’s face as he intro-ed Trump at the Republican candidate’s Super Tuesday victory rally. Please see (and try to caption?) above. It is, in short, mesmerizing.
6. Jeb Bush was “a low energy individual”
The 2016 Republican nomination race has been entirely dominated by Donald Trump’s combination of media savvy and outrageous statements (not that the two are entirely separate), and all the other candidates struggled to keep up in a competition in which the terms were dictated by the frontrunner. Ted Cruz fared all right, partly because he offered similarly extreme positions on things like immigration. Jeb Bush decided to run as a moderate, relying on his more polite style of campaigning to signal to voters his refined sensibilities. Unfortunately, he realized far too late that polite isn’t selling this year. Donald Trump cut to the quick by calling Bush “low energy,” which functioned both as a comment on his genteel campaigning and a slight to his manhood.
7. Rand Paul dropped out after one caucus
Two years ago, Rand Paul was being touted as the all-but-inevitable winner of the Republican nomination. Even one year ago Business Insider had him as the frontrunner. If you could accurately predict the winner of such a consequential competition years in advance, wouldn’t you? But… you can’t, and neither could the people who said Paul would win. Not only is he not the nominee, but he also didn’t even make it past the first competition. Paul finished fifth in the Iowa caucuses and suspended his campaign the next day. Woops. (Photo via Peter Marovich/Getty Images)
8. Carly Fiorina Dropped Out Twice
Carly Fiorina has now dropped out of the race twice this year. First, she left the race for the Republican nomination after poor showings in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Then in late April, Ted Cruz announced that she would be his running mate, which was a bold move for a man who was not winning his party’s nomination. Running mates are typically chosen by actual nominees, after all. Barely a week after the announcement, Ted Cruz and, with him, Carly Fiorina bowed out of the race. Carly’s run for VP was the shortest in recent history, according to Vox. (Photo via George Frey/Getty Images)
Do you have a favorite moment from the campaign so far? Tweet it to us @BritandCo!