CNN has released a new national poll. The numbers are here. Notice anything unexpected about this result in particular?
When all Americans are polled, it's no surprise that Marco Rubio has a positive favorable rating, or that the ratings are very negative for Jeb Bush (who's disliked by both liberals and conservatives) and Donald Trump (who's Donald Trump, and is therefore loathed by everyone who doesn't regard him as a god). It's not surprising that Ben Carson is in favorable territory, either, although his numbers have clearly slipped.
No -- what's surprising is that more people like Ted Cruz than dislike him -- and let me remind you that this is among all the poll's respondents, not just the Republicans.
That's worrisome if you're rooting for a Democratic victory in November and you think a ticket including Cruz, as either the Republican nominee or a running mate, would be doomed to failure. Cruz isn't a Trump clone, as far as the general public is concerned. Cruz, to the public at large, is an okay guy.
Trump has a very high favorable rating among Republicans (70%) -- but apart from that, most subgroups don't like him. He has unfavorable ratings in all age groups. Independents dislike him (40% favorable, 57% unfavorable). Even men dislike him (45%-54%), though not as much as women (34%-61%).
Cruz, however, has favorable ratings in every age group except 18-34, and even in that group he's at 36% favorable, 39% unfavorable. Cruz is in positive territory with independents (45%-36%) and with both genders (men, 48%-39%; women, 41%-38%).
People are clearly watching the debates and coming to the conclusion that Ted Cruz is a decent chap. He's still lagging on other measures with the general public (has the right experience to be president, shares your values, is someone you'd be proud to have as president) -- but Trump and Rubio also fail on all of those questions, and I wonder how Hillary Clinton would do. For now, at least, people like Cruz personally.
Now, maybe we don't really have to worry about having Cruz at the top of the ticket -- CNN polled just Republicans and found that Trump is still crushing the competition, with 39% of the vote. (Cruz is a distant second, at 18%.) But other polls, such as Quinnipiac's, have the race much closer, and Cruz is on the rise in polls of states with early primaries or caucuses. And in that Quinnipiac poll, Cruz ties Clinton, 44%-44%, and beats Sanders 44%-43$%. So be careful about wishing for a Cruz surge in the primaries.