PPP's newest Republican national poll finds that Ted Cruz has the big momentum following the official announcement of his candidacy last week. His support has increased from 5% to 16% in just over a month, enough to make him one of three candidates in the top tier of GOP contenders, along with Scott Walker and Jeb Bush....How do you become a favorite of the wingnut Republican voter base? Regular readers of this blog know my theory: You have to persuade those voters that liberals and Democrats really, really hate and fear you. Cruz's problem in the months leading up to the announcement of his candidacy was that we'd stopped acting as if we were afraid of him. We hardly talked about him anymore, and when we did, all we talked about was how much other Republicans hated him. So he'd become the male Sarah Palin -- yes, a vengeful warrior for True Conservatism, but a warrior who apparently couldn't shoot straight.
Cruz has really caught fire with voters identifying themselves as 'very conservative' since his announcement. After polling at only 11% with them a month ago, he now leads the GOP field with 33% to 25% for Walker and 12% for Carson with no one else in double digits. Last month Walker led with that group and almost all of the decline in his overall support over the last month has come within it as those folks have moved toward Cruz.
But once he'd announced, we lefties - and, yes, I'm as guilty as every other bloviator -- couldn't stop talking about him. We treated him as if he's a conservative force to be feared. Some of us dredged up the old Joe McCarthy comparisons. (An aside: Can we please stop comparing Cruz to Joe McCarthy? Yes, they look somewhat alike. Yes, Cruz also hates communism. But Cruz has no power to destroy reputation or ruin lives -- I'm not saying he wouldn't given the chance, but he can't, and he's not likely ever to have the power, unless, God help us, some GOP president puts him on the Supreme Court, which I wouldn't rule out.)
We all talked so much about Cruz after he announced his candidacy that now he seems powerful. It looks as if we fear him. So of course the voter base has (at least temporarily) forgotten Scott Walker's union-busting and three recent election victories, and has forgotten Ben Carson's National Prayer Breakfast speech:
Ben Carson [has] dropped from 18% to his new 10% standing. There's a lot of overlap between the voters who like Carson and the voters who like Cruz and where previously they'd been naming Carson as their first choice the momentum for Cruz lately seems to have really cut into Carson's support.The candidates, or at least the non-Jeb candidates, are going to figure this out, if they haven't already. In order to win, they're going to have to anger us and scare us. If we rise (or the GOP voter base thinks we're rising) to some candidate's bait, that candidate will soar in the polls.
So we should probably dispense our outrage carefully -- though, frankly, I'm glad we elevated Cruz, because he might be the least electable Republican apart from Donald Trump. Go Ted!