This is by far the strangest column I’ve read on Senator Ted Cruz’s potential — he hasn’t even announced yet — candidacy. It’s written by Jennifer Rubin, who basically argues that Cruz is unpopular because he’s too “extreme.” He behaves, she writes, like an “angry young man,” and is not “presidential” at all.
The “evidence” she uses? He’s “only” polling at 5%, she says, at RealClearPolitics.
OK, so let’s look at RCP’s poll of polls. And what do we see?
Jeb Bush is supposedly leading the pack — which makes me laugh, honestly: the guy is as unpopular among the conservative base as a Republican could possibly be. He’s followed by Christie (9.4%), Huckabee (9%), Paul (8.6%), Carson (8.4%), Walker (5.8%) and Cruz (5.2%). Behind Cruz there are people like the new darling of the establishment, Marco Rubio (4.6%), Rick Perry (4.2%), and Bobby Jindal (2.8%).
What’s most remarkable about this is that Bush, Christie and Huckabee all have problems with the conservative constitutionalist base. Bush and Christie are seen as too moderate (or even downright progressive), whereas the only conservative part of Huckabee is his social conservatism. His record as Arkansas governor made Bill Clinton look conservative in comparison.
Sooner or later the base will turn against these three individuals. They may do fairly well right now, but some if not all of them will be ferociously attacked by conservative activists. That’s going to hurt their poll numbers going forward.
Secondly, although Bush doesn’t have national experience as such, he is a former president’s brother and another former president’s son. He’s known — very well known — and has a national network to work with. The same can be said for Huckabee (after all, he already ran for president twice) and Rand Paul (who simply took over his father’s network). Cruz doesn’t have that network yet, but has begun building it. Once that gains traction, he’ll almost certainly rise in the polls.
Thirdly, although Cruz is chastised by Rubin for being too unpopular to win the nomination because he only polls at 5%, why is it that Scott Walker is considered one of the frontrunners, while he polls… 5% as well? The difference between him and Cruz is 0.6%, which is easily within the margin of error.
Fourthly and most hilariously of all, Rubin writes that Cruz will probably have to follow in Rick Perry’s footsteps. Perry learned, she explains, to communicate his message in a slightly different (read: less polarizing and downright conservative) manner and that supposedly helped him. I quote:
Maybe the best thing for Cruz would be to run. There is nothing like the verdict of voters in those early states to sober up a politician. Losing is one thing; losing in embarrassing fashion is quite another. Perhaps — like Rick Perry — he needs that sort of humbling experience to redirect his focus and his approach to politics. If so, that would be to his and Republicans’ benefit.
If that helped Perry, as Rubin argues, how can she explain that he’s only polling at 4.2%, a full percentage lower than Cruz? He’s doing worse than Ted, Jennifer, and that while he actually ran for president once and, therefore, has somewhat of a national organization!
image illustration via shutterstock / Aquir