Let’s Be Serious About Ted Cruz From The Start: He’s Too Extreme And Too Disliked To Win
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s newly minted presidential campaign is the media equivalent of a juicy rib-eye that robbers use to distract a guard dog during a heist. He’ll get a ton of media attention, and he’ll get to spread his message — which may be all that Cruz is after — but Cruz almost certainly has no shot of winning the nomination, according to every indicator that predicts success in presidential primaries.
First, Cruz doesn’t have enough support from party bigwigs. To win the Republican or Democratic nomination, you need the backing of at least some of the party apparatus. At a minimum, your fellow party members shouldn’t hate you. Otherwise, you end up getting the Newt Gingrich 2012 treatment. That is, you get pounced on the moment you’re seen as a threat to win the nomination.
If we’re ever in a world where it looks like Cruz could win the nomination, you’ll very likely see such pouncing. You can read article after article about how Cruz has isolated himself in the Senate. It got so bad that he recently had to apologize to his Republican colleagues.
That isn’t to say that Cruz is universally hated in Washington. He has a fan base in the very conservative House GOP caucus. House Republicans have, in fact, been egging Cruz on. The problem for Cruz is that endorsements from this group are likely worth about one-third to one-half as much as those from major statewide officials. Representatives usually have very little statewide sway, and most Americans cannot even name their representative.
Second, Cruz has an electability problem. You can see this on two fronts: ideology and polling.
Cruz is likely far too extreme ideologically to win the nomination. The Republican party has a habit of nominating relatively moderate candidates (see John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012). That’s especially the case when the party has been out of the White House for more than one term. A Cruz nomination wouldn’t just break this streak; it would throw it off a 100-floor balcony and drop a piano on it.
Cruz is more conservative than every recent nominee, every other candidate who mounted a serious bid in 2012 and every plausible candidate running or potentially running in 2016. Let’s look at three ideological measures: DW-Nominate common-space scores (which are based on a candidate’s voting record in Congress), fundraising ratings (based on who donates to a candidate), and OnTheIssues.org scores (based on public statements made by the candidate). As my colleague Nate Silver has previously noted, these measures aren’t perfect, but together, they give you a fairly good idea of where a candidate stands.