WASHINGTON • As Senator Ted Cruz seeks to unite the disparate factions of the Republican Party that are bonded only by their dead-set opposition to rival candidate Donald Trump, a high-wire act is required.
He must welcome the top ranks of the same establishment he has spent years excoriating, while not abandoning the hard-line conservatives who like him in part because of his attacks on party leaders.
While endorsements from former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and former rival Jeb Bush drew headlines recently, just as striking is the sound of silence from the vast majority of Republican elected officials and leading donors.
Nearly two weeks after Senator Marco Rubio dropped out of the race, there has been no mass rush to Mr Cruz, even as he appears to be the last line of defence against a Trump nomination.
The decision by so many leading Republicans to remain on the sidelines is all the more notable because it appears inversely proportional to the scale of concern about Mr Trump.
The latter's recent attacks on Mr Cruz's wife and soaring unpopularity among women, minorities and college-educated voters have left many in the party more convinced than ever that, with Mr Trump, they are heading for a political iceberg. But this fear has not been enough to coax them in Mr Cruz's direction.
"They're afraid of Trump's voters and they hate Cruz," explained Senator Lindsey Graham.
Part of Mr Cruz's challenge is that Governor John Kasich of Ohio remains in the race, providing cover for some Republicans who cannot abide Mr Trump but cannot bring themselves to support Mr Cruz.
Mr Graham said he intended to sound out Mr Kasich's supporters about joining forces with Mr Cruz.
"A Cruz-Kasich ticket is the best way we can stop Trump," he said.
Even those who have signalled they are likely to support Mr Cruz are dragging their feet.
Mr Rubio, who praised Mr Cruz as "the only conservative left in the race" after his own exit, has been perhaps the most conspicuous holdout. Mr Rubio is likely to run again for president in 2020 should Republicans lose the White House this year, and has been discouraged by some party financiers from supporting Mr Cruz, according to one Republican strategist.
Compounding the problem is Mr Cruz himself, who has called for party harmony, but has made little effort to repair damaged relationships with fellow Republicans in the Senate.
NEW YORK TIMES