Thursday, April 14, 2016


Most people on the left assume that Donald Trump's high negative ratings with the general public are etched in stone. I think that's probably correct. But most liberals probably also feel the same way about Ted Cruz. I'm not so sure.

As you read the following, keep in mind that it's from Mother Jones:
The CNN Town Hall with Ted Cruz and his family on Wednesday night began with host Anderson Cooper talking to the candidate about the usual political subjects....

When Heidi Cruz joined her husband on stage and audience members came to the mic, the questions moved from the political to the personal: What was their first date? (A dinner when the two were working on the Bush campaign in 2000). What did she think was his "most annoying" quality? (His iPhone). Cruz also told the audience that he loves movies, but his wife isn't interested in them....

But the real highlight of the evening came when Cruz's two young daughters, dressed in identical yellow dresses, were asked who they would first want to invite to visit the White House. Caroline, whose eighth birthday is on Thursday, and five-year-old Catherine, were shy about naming their favorite pop star, but their mother Heidi answered for them: "The girls would love to have their first guest be Taylor Swift," she said.

... The whole family exchange was pretty adorable.
Yup, a Mother Jones writer thinks that was just adorbs. I wouldn't bet the rent money that Ohio swing voters are going to be more resistant to the charms of the Cruz family.

And I noticed yesterday that Cruz got a lot of people on social media talking about his taste in pop culture:
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has taken many a controversial stand -- repealing Obamacare, deporting illegal immigrants. But he may have outdone himself Wednesday night at a CNN town hall meeting.

He mentioned “The Godfather, Part III” among his all-time favorite films.

Host Anderson Cooper asked Mr. Cruz to name some of his favorite films, besides his oft-repeated answer that his all-time favorite is “The Princess Bride.”

He gave a common response ... of the popular and iconic “Godfather” films.

But then the heresy struck: He specified “all three” films in Francis Coppola’s gangster trilogy. A disbelieving Mr. Cooper replied that “nobody” thinks that.

... Mr. Cruz apparently goes even beyond that heterodox judgment, calling the third film a “nice culmination” of the tragedy of Michael Corleone. In describing that tragedy, the Texan, as he is wont to do, went into an imitation of Al Pacino delivering the best-known line in the film, about how he’s every time he tries to escape the gangster life, “they pull me back in.”
If we're talking about the Cruz daughters, Cruz's taste in movies, and Cruz's imitations of celebrities, we're not talking about his tax plan and his position on social issues and his backing for torture and indiscriminate bombing of civilians. We're not talking about his government shutdown. Could the town-halling of television election coverage help the probable Republican presidential nominee turn himself from an ogre into a dorky neighbor with an appealing family?

Okay, maybe not -- maybe he's too firmly established as unlikable in most people's minds for this to do much good. But unlike Donald Trump (who did a town hall like this a couple of days ago) and Hillary Clinton, Cruz can trot out a family that isn't familiar to viewers from gossip-page images of gala events featuring rich and famous movers and shakers. The Cruzes can look like jes' folks.

Richard Nixon was also an unlikable striver who was willing to do just about anything in the service of his own ambition, but the Checkers Speech made the public believe he was kind of a regular guy. I hope Cruz hasn't figured out the formula for an image rehabilitation, one that gets a big assist from the media.


UPDATE: I almost missed the soup story: Apparently, Cruz only eats soup when he's away from his family, by his own admission, and Heidi Cruz told a story at the town hall last night about Cruz buying a hundred cans of Campbell's Chunky soup when the couple returned from their honeymoon.
This was shocking to me, so we had a tough conversation about it. I said, “You don’t buy 100 of anything, much less canned soup. We can’t do this. I’ll be making things.” He said, “No, I know you. you won’t be making things.”

So the next morning, it was a weekend morning, I loaded up our car before he woke up and returned every single can. And when I got home, I called my mother just to make sure I’d done the right thing as a newlywed. And she emphatically disagreed with me. And so when Ted opened the pantry, I had to quickly tell him that I would go back and buy those cans again.
If you're cringing, well, me too. But we're effete cultural elitists. I bet in the heartland a lot of married women heard that and just thought, "Men!"


AllieG said...

If the Republicans nominated zombie Stalin, you'd be telling us how the media would rehabilitate him and how the public would fall for it. Politics is for actors who aren't that good at it. Rest assured a general election campaign would bring Cruz's inner asshole to the surface.

Victor said...

Our MSM hates Hillary so much, Stalin would become "Good Ol' Uncle Joe," Adolf Hitler would be painted as a loveable artistic scoundrel, and Atilla would be known as "The Honey."

Fiddlin Bill said...

See this story from Lawyers, Guns, and Money today:

Jim Snyder said...

Perhaps it's time for a Prozac.

Sure, every silver cloud has a dark lining, but when one sees only dark linings, and misses the silver clouds entirely ...

Steve M. said...

Let's revisit this in October, if Cruz is the nominee. By the way, why is Hillary only trailing Cruz by 2.8 points in the polls if everyone hates him so much?

Jim Snyder said...

@SteveM: Perhaps because it's 7 months until the general election, and the general electorate hasn't tuned in yet. Or perhaps Bernie Bros still have the luxury of pontificating that they'll never never, not even hardly ever, vote for a corporate, uh, never mind.

And you might be right to be concerned. We're all concerned. But suppose Scott Walker had been the dragon-slayer charismatic Pied Piper we thought he might be. Or Marcus Rubius - some say he is an honorable man - or Jeb! had lived up to expectations.

I submit that we would all have a lot more reason to be concerned in that alternate reality than we have in this one, when Hillary will be facing the most unpopular nominee the GOP has fielded since, well, almost forever.

Hell, I thought RMoney was a horrible choice for a presidential candidate. In comparison to Crumpz RMoney is Golden Boy.

And RMoney lost by, what, more than 4 percentage points to Obama. Mumble mumble 47% something mumble IIRC.

Sure, Hillary doesn't have the raw political talent that Obama has ... but Cruz doesn't have the raw political talent of RMoney, and Trump ... well, Greg Sargent glosses the numbers over at Plum Line today, and it aint pretty.

Point being: six months ago we'd all have drooled at the prospect of running against Crumpz... and we'd have been laughed out of court because the Replicants would never be so stupid as to run Crumpz.

None of the fundamentals have changed ... and it looks like Hillary will be running against Crumpz.

"Never underestimate the ability of the Democrats to seize defeat from the jaws of victory", but Ah tells ya, if the Democrats lose this one ...

Steve M. said...

Hillary will be facing the most unpopular nominee the GOP has fielded since, well, almost forever.

Yup, and Cruz (or maybe Trump) will be facing the most unpopular nominee the Democrats have fielded since, well, almost forever.

If I were certain Trump would be the nominee, I'd stop worrying, because Trump is box-office poison. Failing that, if the presumptive D nominee were Joe Biden, I'd stop worrying, because he could win easily this year. (After a year of Trump, Joe Biden couldn't possibly have a "gaffe" that was a game-changer.) But Ds will have a very weak candidate, and Rs probably won't have their weakest. So it's going to be another competitive election when it shouldn't be.

Jim Snyder said...

@SteveM: to be a bit clearer wrt "7 months until the general", Hillary is an absolutely known quality to the electorate. Barring an indictment or scandal or the bottom falling out of the economy before the election, her poll trajectory is predictable in some fuzzy sense of "predictable".

Ted Cruz is well-known to political junkies, but my guess is that he's not well-known to the electorate as a whole, which is to say that his poll numbers v-a-v the general election are soft. And if Cruz is the nominee, he will be the most extreme candidate either party has fielded in living memory... more extreme than Goldwater, by some accounts.

If the Dems don't capitalize on his extremism, they're politically incompetent.

Which they might be, but ya goes with the party ya has, not the party ya wish ya had.

Jim Snyder said...

@SteveM: sorry, browser didn't show your comment until after I posted my 2nd.

Nonetheless, my 2nd comment was relevant. Cruz is an unknown - a one-term Texas senator who is running second on the basis of a strong ground game and the conservative fundie base. It's said so often as to be trite, but Trump has sucked all the air out of the room. Cruz is still undefined for most of the electorate.

Beyond that, I spot you Hillary's unpopularity. Were she running against RMoney it might be an even contest. Against Jeb! or Marcus Rubius or Paul Raynd, she might be struggling, although the first two have a flair for making the least out of their advantages, so perhaps not.

But she's not running against RMoney etc.

She's running against Crumpz. You're OK with Hillary vs. Trump, so ... Cruz.

Well, since I spot you Hillary's unpopularity, you have to spot me Cruz' unpopularity.

It's like Obama v. RMoney all over again, except that Hillary is much less popular than Obama, and Cruz is much less popular than RMoney.

RMoney never took a position he couldn't fudge. Cruz doesn't seem to have that talent, even allowing for his dishonesty, and in the race to the RNC wire I'm not seeing him "pivoting to the general". (But then I'm not seeing much about Cruz except for the ground game.)

Perhaps it isn't valid to regard the Replicant political class as a proxy for the general electorate, but it's a datum: even now when they have apparently settled on Cruz as their David against Trump's Goliath, they can't bring themselves to associate with Cruz publicly. Sure, they'll endorse him if he's the nominee, but will they actively support him? Will that support swing votes?

Will the Replicant political class swing the Trumpetariat? With Trump bellowing about being cheated? With the story of the election (so far) being the revolt against the elites?

Tune in come November. [shrugs]

I keep hearing how Replicants always close ranks around the nominee, but women? Hispanics? blacks?

The numbers just don't work for the GOP nominee unless he can repair the damage done by the race to the right during the primary.

I can't see how Cruz is the guy who can repair that damage.

Of course predicting is easy, even the future. It's correct prediction that's hard.

Feud Turgidson said...

What does it mean for a monster & missus to 'meet cute'? Does it make them seem more human, or confirm they're monsters?
The MJ story includes that Ted & Heidi met working for Bush 2000. I imagined hat a bit: I stopped as it creeped me out. But I actually know couples first-named "Ted & Heidi", and how each (claim to have) met; none met 'more' cute that the Cruz', or creeped me out.
Nixon joined an amateur theater group in a nearby town, I'm quite sure to meet women - no: "a" woman, a mate. I've done that! Just less laser-focused. I like it in me that I actually tried that; & to me it makes Nixon seem more ... relatable? Others may see it as typically calculating; that, too.
I also met one partner in ways more similar to T & H Cruz but it always struck me as vaguely hapless or transactional. Yet, shouldn't that seem LESS transactional than Dick Goes Off On Safari To Hunt A Mate?

Unknown said...

"By the way, why is Hillary only trailing Cruz by 2.8 points in the polls if everyone hates him so much?"

Because they hate her almost as much.

A contest between two so deeply loathed figures is truly the election we deserve.

Jim Snyder said...

I'm not sure this is directly relevant to "why only 2.8%", but it seems like it's worth considering:

Victor said...

Clean-up crew report to comment at 2:56!


Unknown said...

You are one condescending, patronizing and amazingly naive city slicker. First, the Checkers Speech was almost 64 years ago. American middle class white culture is three generations, the tumultuous 60's, the hedonistic 70's, the nose to the grindstone 80's, the incredibly boring 90's and the demographically revolutionary aughts down life's lonesome highway. Second, Sen. Cruz's problem is that he is the most despised member of the political class in DC. The GOP will not go to bat for him if they are forced to give him the nomination. Heck, most of the "establishment", especially the Senate and House, won't even show up in Cleveland. Sen. Graham said that Sen. Cruz is deadly poison, and he pretends to support him, when he isn't trying to preserve his reputation on late night TV. If Sen. Cruz and the lovely, but bat-shit crazy, Heidi, had 19 adorable kids, he couldn't be elected president of the PTA.

sdhays said...

Steve - I appreciate the skepticism you always bring to popular memes. It's not always right (no one's perfect), but it's always helpful to have a smart counterpoint to what everyone "knows".

My sense with Cruz, on top of the update you posted, is that the evidence so far really is that to know Cruz is to loathe him. It's not just people telling us this or what we liberals feel when we see him or hear him speak; it's what people with a lot of incentive to warm up to the guy actually do. The fact that his colleagues know that with their support, he could pretty much make Trump go away, and even that doesn't entice them to even talk to him is a serious piece of evidence. Dick Nixon wasn't loathed like Ted Cruz. The media will definitely try to make him presentable, just as they will with Trump, but both of them will have trouble letting the makeover stick.

A counter-intuitive thought that I've been mulling for awhile regards Hillary. It's taken for a given that she's hated by a huge portion of the electorate and that seems to be supported by her high negative numbers. It's certainly true that the right-wing absolutely detests her. But it's also true that a few short years ago when she was merely Obama's Secretary of State, she had sky-high approvals. That changed overnight when she started running for President, even before she really started campaigning. So just how much of those negatives are a kind of "I know I shouldn't like Hillary because...mumble mumble" negative as opposed to "I really can't stand Hillary Clinton" negative? Is her unpopularity actually softer than is generally accepted?

Just an idea.