Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, right, is...

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, right, is seen here on Monday, March 28, 2016, with former Republican candidate Carly Fiorina in Rothschild, Wis. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker endorsed Cruz on March 29 ahead of his state's presidential primary. Credit: AP

I got to meet Texas Sen. Ted Cruz last week in New York City.
Normally after eyeballing a public figure up close, you report back to friends that, “he’s a lot different in person” – shorter or taller, friendlier or unfriendlier, aloof or “really down-to earth.”
Not so with Cruz.
That impressed me.
Besides being, OK, slightly smaller and significantly better looking in person than on TV, the Ted Cruz I saw and briefly spoke with at an off-the-record sit down at my old political club in Manhattan was the exact same one I’ve been watching in action for the past several years. He was sincere, unwavering, driven and humorless, with that man-on-a-mission feel we saw in the primary debates.
Cruz clearly isn’t a New York politician. He demeanor screams, “Bible Belt” (he’s the son of a baptist minister) and he’s far too smooth to be a Northeast politician. New Yorkers have an aversion to slicksters, and Cruz undeniably lends himself to that description. He’s also more conservative than most Republicans in these parts, not necessarily in what he believes, but in what he chooses to emphasize. There are plenty of socially conservative Republicans in New York, but they rarely lead with it.
Cruz goes there.
The biggest knock on Cruz to most Americans is that he was willing to shut down the federal government over the debt limit a couple of years back. A lot of very smart people called that reckless, but in fairness to Cruz, so is adding hundreds of billions of dollars in red ink to our already suicidal $19 trillion debt load. It was a bit of brinksmanship I personally didn’t mind.
Republican voters are rebelling this year ostensibly because the Republicans they’ve  sent to Congress over the last several years didn’t fight hard enough to stop Obamacare or curtail the crazy federal spending and borrowing.   
But hey, wait a minute, what about Cruz? He actually did what he said he was going to do when he ran, and he has the scars on his back to prove it. Half of them came from his own Republican Senate colleagues.
Doesn’t that count for something?
Cruz first entered the national radar screen in March 2013 during Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster over  the dangers of drone strikes on American citizens on U.S. soil. Cruz was one of a handful of fellow Republicans who took to the floor to help the senator. Paul was supposed to be the star of the night – and he was – but it was impossible not to take note of this other towering figure.
Cruz, a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, is a gifted speaker and debater with lots of practice. He argued nine cases before the U.S. Supreme Court as Texas solicitor general and won five of them. Anyone who’s followed his career closely will emphasize how bright he is. One of the most brilliant minds I know, a man who’s been a key, behind-the-scenes conservative movement figure for more than 40 years, told me that Cruz is one of those most brilliant minds he knows.
Still, Cruz wasn’t my first choice to be the Republican presidential nominee.  He wasn’t even my second. I was looking for a conservative with crossover appeal – a Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, businesswoman Carly Fiorina or Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
But at this point, Cruz is the only Republican candidate left who can both win the nomination and keep the Republican Party a conservative party. You may not like how he looks or speaks, but you know where he stands.
I can’t say the same about the leading Republican candidate.
I get the rebellion. I really do. But I can’t understand for the life of me why Ted Cruz isn’t leading it.
William F. B. O’Reilly is a Republican consultant.