As the #NeverTrump campaign to choose any Republican candidate not named Trump has gained momentum, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Ted CruzSenate Republican Average95% has begun to demonstrate strength in the race. After a strong weekend, he is currently in 2nd Place behind Donald Trump in the delegate count, and hopes to close that gap with upcoming favorable states. It would seem logical for anyone wishing to stop Trump to jump on the Cruz bandwagon, but Ted Cruz has a likely insurmountable Electoral College problem.
To be clear, I currently support Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Marco RubioSenate Republican Average82%, but would have no problem voting for Senator Cruz if Rubio exits the race. My positive opinion about Cruz’s politics cannot overcome his problems as a General Election candidate. In our middle school civics class we were taught a romantic view of the General Election including a 50 state competition, broken up into 538 Delegates, and the first candidate to earn 270 of those delegates becomes President of the United States. In reality, the General Election is actually limited to 10-14 states, commonly referred to “swing states” or “purple states”. This condensed election is the result of 36 – 40 states being aligned with one political party and beyond the reach of the opposition party.
This reality causes an emptiness in Cruz’s recent Primary Election success if the purpose of the Primary Election is to select a candidate that can win the General Election. Cruz has done well, and even great in many states that would likely vote for blow-up doll with a U.S. Constitution taped to it if it was a Republican. At the same time, he demonstrates significant weakness in “swing states”, and even more in “must win” states for Republicans. It appears Cruz turns states that are Republican “locks”, also known as “Red States”, bright red, but his effect on swing states also known as “Purple States” is to turn them “Blue” representing Democrat strong-holds.
Republicans enter the General Election with an Electoral Delegate deficit. As the image above illustrates, Democrats only have to win 58 Electoral Delegates to win the election. Instead of examining each state, it is safe to assume Republicans must win 3 of the 4 largest swing states. To date, Cruz performed very poorly in Virginia, while currently polling poorly in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. His poor Primary Election performance combined with the fact that all four states were won by Democrats in both 2008 and 2012 suggests Cruz would struggle to win even one of the states.
Cruz Excites Democrats
If the electoral map in a vacuum was not enough of a problem for Senator Cruz, his reputation among Democrat voters may be his most significant Achilles heel in a General Election. The same reasons that make Cruz attractive to far right voter’s causes repulsion among Democrats and many Independents. His hard line positions, and consistently providing red meat orations for personal political gain has made him Public Enemy #1 with many liberals. A simple way to look at it is a liberal single female voter in Boca Raton, FL may vote against Rubio or Governor John Kasich if the polling station is on the way home, but will go out of her way on her way home from work to vote against Donald Trump. That same liberal single female voter in Boca Raton, FL will walk out of her Botox appointment halfway complete to make it to the polls to cast a vote against Ted Cruz. Cruz will drive liberal voters to the polls which also has down ballot consequences.
Some Republican Leaders are not Cruz Fans
Cruz is known for being unpopular within the Senate, as well a fictional covert group within the GOP known as “the establishment”. This reputation has often been seen as a positive with voters as Cruz has positioned himself as a fighter for the people. Some of this lack of support will be offset by Cruz’s popularity with many talking heads, especially on conservative talk radio where similar red meat is often used to tap into the emotions of listeners.
Cruz supporters claim his lack of support among other elected officials is based on his refusal to go along to get along, and not related to claims of Cruz’s lack of honesty. This is not totally accurate. A Congressional aide once described the type of situation that causes dislike for Cruz on Capitol Hill.
He said a decision may be made within leadership to approve some type of entitlement funding in exchange for approval from Democrats of a needed Armed Forces appropriation. In groups of 5 or 6, or the full Republican Senate, leadership will communicate the deal while gauging any problems or disapproval. They desire to remain united as they realize they may take “heat” from talk radio and other pundits about not controlling spending. Everyone including Cruz will express no issues throughout the meeting. Later as the vote takes place, Cruz waits until most have voted, then will cast a no vote. As leadership recognizes his action, they realize Cruz is already in front of the cameras claiming that he and he alone is the only one standing up to fight the “Washington Cartel” backroom spending deals.
This was simply a generic example that was communicated to me, and not even one that I can provide assurance is 100% accurate. At the same time, we all know this guy somewhere in our lives, and we probably don’t care for him.
The story does seem accurate if you have watched Cruz’s actions opening up 8-10 field offices in Florida, a state that he has no chance of winning but hopes to help Trump find victory. It may seem smart politically, but individuals at the state and local level claim that it has been communicated to them that both Rubio and Kasich made little play for Texas as the campaigns of each candidate already seen Trumps strength may require the other candidates to hold their home states to slow him. Again, there was no official agreement I am told, but all three campaigns agreed the tactic would be beneficial, and Cruz would return similar restraint if they limited their efforts to picking up some delegates while not making a strong play for the State of Texas. Both Rubio and Kasich limited spending in Texas, and did not even reach the threshold for picking up delegates. Cruz’s rush to help Trump in Florida is even more troubling because victories in Florida and Ohio will almost ensure Trump reaches the required delegates needed, or at least close the door on Cruz himself to enter the convention with a competitive number of delegates to make a claim for the nomination. Maybe Cruz realizes that all three candidates would fare better in a brokered convention than himself, or maybe Ted just can’t resist being Ted.
The lack of enthusiasm from other Republican leaders and even other candidates’ campaigns would hurt Cruz in a general election as these individuals often prove pivotal in getting the vote out within their home states. Maybe some of them will find enthusiasm in keeping Hillary Clinton from winning, but my guess is many of them will say thank you to Cruz by giving little more than lip service.
Earlier I stated I would have little issue voting for Cruz although he is not my preferred candidate, and I was aware of his antics in the Senate and even his dishonesty when deciding to campaign heavily in Florida. In the end, none of those negatives diminish his conservative governing, nor was that dishonesty really towards the voters. The bad news is my vote, no yours will overcome the significant problems Cruz will face in a General Election. The popular vote polls he recently mentioned that show him with a 1 point lead over Hillary Clinton in a General Election mean nothing on an Electoral Map. Marco Rubio remains the best General Election candidate among conservatives, and the candidate the Clinton campaign least desires to face in November.