Can Ted Cruz Be Elected President?

My visceral assumption, based on a lose reading of electoral trends, MSM bias, and the fact that Barack Obama inexplicably managed to win re-election, is no. But I’d love to believe otherwise. And it’s a question worth examining.

(I will ignore questions as to his viability as a primary candidate, or his Constitutional eligibility vis. the Presidency, and assume that he is the GOP nominee, and further that Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee.)

(Also, in the interest in full disclosure, although Ted Cruz is by far my preferred potential Presidential candidate in an ideal world that ignores his electability numbers, I am uncomfortable with his siding with Rand Paul, calling for abolishing the IRS, etc.)

Unfortunately, there are not a lot of numbers to go by this early on; but the numbers out there, once one gets beyond the rah-rah straw polls and primary matchup polling, aren’t encouraging. Obviously I will be revisiting the whole issue down the line.

Although it’s very early, and the following Gallup poll (published 6/14/13) surveys adults, not registered or likely voters, the numbers do not bode well for Ted Cruz:

galluptedcruz

Cruz is basically in a statistical tie with Rand Paul for last place in net favorable, while Christie’s net favorable is roughly five times that of Cruz.

(Again, I realize it’s early, and I also realize that Christie would have an uphill battle trying to win over hardcore conservatives to win the nomination.)

Note that the Gallup numbers pertain to “national adults,” meaning all parties (or none)–not just Republicans. (The fact of Cruz’s 4-point advantage net favorable over Christie–see the above link for details–is only significant vis. the GOP primaries.)

Another bad sign: James Carville likes Ted Cruz.

In an article at Left-leaning Politico titled “Texas 2016 poll: Ted Cruz is king,” which deals with Texas poll numbers, Cruz and Clinton are close: “When each candidate was paired against potential Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, the poll showed some candidates might be in for a tough race. Cruz would beat Clinton 49 percent to 44 percent, the survey found, and Clinton would beat Perry 48 percent to 44 percent.” But since it’s a PPP poll (Democratic push-polling posers), and only deals with Texas, where Cruz is far more popular than in most other states, all bets are are off.

Interestingly, a recent Marist-McClatchy poll had numbers on Clinton vs. Christie, Ryan, Bush and Rubio, respectively–but not Clinton vs. Cruz. Of those Republican candidates with poll numbers, the closest to Hillary among registered voters was Christie (the latter was down by six points to the former).

OK, I swore (yesterday as a matter of fact) that I would never ever ever click on a Salon link again. That didn’t last long. I will include it here in its entirety so they don’t get the traffic. It’s an ugly, hate-filled piece, but here goes. Skip down past the quoted section if you don’t want to be subjected to it.

Ted Cruz could beat Hillary
He may be a right-wing nut, but the Texas senator can beat a Democrat in a general election. Here’s why
By Jonathan Bernstein

There’s been some more buzz this week about Ted Cruz’s presidential prospects. The demagoguing senator took his first trip to Iowa just six months after being sworn in to office, and he’s pretty clearly reaching for the White House. Early reports are that it’s going well. And Rich Yeselson wrote a high-profile (and fascinating) essay arguing that, basically, Cruz is perfectly positioned for reaching the top of the Republican ticket.

The focus of this piece is on Cruz’s general election viability. When it comes to the primary, I’m not going to start handicapping the viable candidates seeking the Republican nomination yet; I’ll only say that I don’t see any reason not to include Cruz in that group, as of now. Viable candidates have conventional credentials and are in the mainstream of their party on questions of public policy. Cruz, from what we know now, qualifies. With four years in elected office by January 2017, he’ll be in a similar boat with Barack Obama (who, granted, had held lower office as well) and Mitt Romney (who at least had four full years before his campaign began). And while Cruz surely is planted at an edge of the Republican mainstream, I don’t see any reason, so far, to believe he’s close to falling off that edge. Whether or not Yeselson is correct that Cruz is a particularly strong candidate, it’s certainly very possible to see him nominated.

But what about the general election? Could he actually win?

What I hear from many liberals about Cruz’s chances are two things. One is just disbelief: Republicans wouldn’t really do something like nominate Cruz, would they? The key is that Ted Cruz isn’t Herman Cain or even Michele Bachmann; he’s a United States senator, and that counts for something (that is, conventional credentials count for something) in presidential elections. So, yes, they really could do something like that.

The other thing I hear, however, is perhaps even more wrong. Some liberals react by actively rooting for Cruz. The theory? The nuttier the nominee, the worse the chances of Republicans retaking the White House. Indeed, in conversation I’ve heard all sorts of justifications: Cruz couldn’t possibly win Florida! Therefore, he couldn’t win the White House!

Don’t listen to it.

The smart money play for liberals remains to root, in the Republican primary, for whichever candidate would make the best – or perhaps the least-worst – president.

The bottom line is that candidates just don’t matter all that much in presidential elections. Yes, a reputation for ideological extremism hurts, but it appears to hurt maybe 2 or 3 percentage points. Yes, George McGovern and Barry Goldwater had reputations for ideological extremism and were buried, but in both cases it was by a popular president during good times. Ronald Reagan wasn’t slowed much (although, still, some) by his conservative image. Don’t get me wrong: There’s no evidence for the opposite theory, that avoiding the squishy center (in either direction) will magically produce an avalanche of new voters who otherwise would have stayed home. Going moderate is better. It just isn’t all that much better.

Now, on top of that, it’s an open question whether Cruz would really wind up with a reputation as more of a fringe figure than any other plausible nominee. For one thing, the Republican nomination process may bring out inflamed rhetoric, but it’s also likely to create converging policy views among the candidates. Indeed, it’s not impossible to imagine a scenario in which Cruz wins the nomination as the hero of conservatives, which then leaves him far more free to pivot to the center in the general election race than a less trusted candidate might have. Granted, the other possibility is very real as well – Cruz spends the nomination fight solidifying his conservative reputation, and then finds it sticks with him no matter what he does later. And it’s worth noting that Mitt Romney’s reputation as relatively moderate managed to survive everything he did in in the entire 2012 election cycle.

The bottom line, however, is that Ted Cruz is unlikely to drop more than a couple points to the Democratic nominee. And that’s not likely to swing the election. Could it? Sure; even a small bump would have sunk the Republicans in 2000, for example. But most elections aren’t narrow enough for a couple of points to make a difference.

The only exception to this would be for someone who doesn’t even have conventional credentials. Nominate Cain or Bachmann, and it’s not difficult to believe that the penalty would be very large. There’s no way of knowing, however, because no one like that ever gets nominated. So, sure, root for them, but it ain’t gonna happen.

So what it all comes down to is if you really believe that Cruz is more dangerous as president than Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie or the rest of the likely field, then you most definitely don’t want him in place just in case 2016 turns out to be a good year for Republicans.

Jonathan Bernstein writes at a Plain Blog About Politics. Follow him at @jbplainblog More Jonathan Bernstein.

Uh, no–I won’t be following this spittle-flecked Leftist hack, thanks just the same.

I can’t help but conclude that Bernstein’s piece is meant to be a stealth encouragement to Republicans by the Left to back Cruz and get their clocks cleaned by Hillary–a less clever variation on Carville’s comments, quoted above. Call me cynical.

So there you have it. Not much data to go on–and what data there is, isn’t very hopeful vis. Cruz’s prospects against Clinton.

Inconclusive? Perhaps. But remember the Gallup poll referenced earlier, where Christie had a 52% favorable rating among all voters (compared to 24% for Cruz)? Guess what Hillary’s number is:

galluphillary

Hillary’s favorability rating among independents, per Gallup, is now down to 52%. Certainly Christie is not as much a shoe-in for his party’s nomination as Clinton is for hers, but something had better change drastically for 2016 not to be a Progressive-versus-Progressive Lite matchup.

And it gives me absolutely no pleasure to say that.

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