Not good for Cruz, notwithstanding the fact that he leads narrowly. To refresh your memory, Texas is winner-take-all with a huge windfall of delegates (155) if the winner takes a clear majority of the vote. If he doesn’t, it’s proportional. Which means, if these numbers are close to accurate, Cruz is likely to barely dent Trump’s delegate lead even if he wins his home state. And these numbers probably are close to accurate, in the sense that Cruz hasn’t approached 50 percent in any of the recent polls of Texas. The best he’s done is 37 percent, good for an eight-point lead over Trump. But that was before last night’s humiliation in Nevada and the creeping sense that Trump is inevitable. It’s not nuts to think that Trump will end up edging past Cruz, and even if he falls short, it’s not unlikely that a proportional win in Texas is Cruz’s only win next Tuesday.
That’s the tough case for Cruz. If he shocks everyone with a 50 percent win, he’ll say he’s right back in the hunt and continue his campaign. What does he do if he wins the state with less than 50, though, and loses everywhere else? (A second poll of Texas today has him ahead 35/20 over Trump.) All of his “strong” states will have passed. He’d have no obvious path to the nomination and would essentially be running to try to assure a brokered convention. Is he prepared to endure months of finishing behind Trump and, sometimes, Rubio for the slim chance that he’ll get to play kingmaker in Cleveland?
With less than a week until the Texas GOP presidential primary, Senator Ted Cruz is edging out his two chief rivals, with Cruz having 29% of the vote followed by Donald Trump at 28% and Marco Rubio at 25%, according to an Emerson College tracking poll released today. Ohio’s John Kasich is at 9%, and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson comes in fifth, with 4%…
Of the three GOP leaders, Rubio is seen most positively, with 64% of likely GOP primaryvoters rating him favorably compared to 29% who view him unfavorably. Cruz’s rating is 56% favorable to 41% unfavorable. Of all the GOP candidates, Trump is the only one under water with a 45% favorable to 50% unfavorable opinion. Clinton (79% favorable to 20% unfavorable) and Sanders (68% to 27%) are both well regarded by likely Democratic primary voters…
As the GOP candidates continue to argue over each other’s honesty, 37% of survey respondents said Cruz is the candidate who has been least honest about his own record and that of his Republican rivals. Trump is a close second for “least honest,” chosen by 35%.
Cruz leads the field when Republicans are asked which candidate is the most dishonest — in Texas. That’s one striking result here. Another, which we’ve seen before, is Trump somehow contending for first place with a favorable rating that’s normally associated with also-rans. He had polls in New Hampshire and South Carolina that pegged him with favorables that were only mildly favorable — 50/43 or thereabouts — but this is the first time I’ve seen him net negative and still in the running for first place somewhere. Trump skeptics would tell you that that’s proof he can’t win a two-man race with Rubio. Perhaps, but (a) he’s still net positive in most states and (b) by the time Rubio finally gets his two-man race with Trump, Trump will be uncatchable.
The most striking result, though, is Rubio’s numbers. The last poll of Texas, conducted between February 12th and the 19th, had Rubio a distant third at 15 percent. His second-place finish in South Carolina came on the 20th, followed by days of buzz that he was the last man capable of stopping Trump. Now, suddenly, he’s hot on Cruz’s and Trump’s heels in Texas, and it’s quite possible that if Kasich’s votes were reassigned to their second choice, Rubio would catch Cruz here. (It’s a cinch that Cruz would slip to second place or worse in this poll without Kasich in the race to pull centrist votes from Rubio and Trump. That’s another bad sign for Ted.) Maybe this is an outlier, but maybe it’s early evidence that some Cruz fans and undecideds are abandoning Cruz and tilting now towards Rubio as the last Anti-Trump standing. We’ll need more polls to judge that, but if Cruz somehow finished third to Rubio and Trump in Texas, I think he really would drop out. That might be the only scenario in which he does, in fact.
This isn’t a poll of Texas but it’s the next best thing. Hoo boy:
— David Freddoso (@freddoso) February 24, 2016
David Harsanyi argues at The Federalist today that a Rubio/Cruz unity ticket is the only hope now of stopping Trump. Perhaps, but according to Marco Rubio himself, it ain’t happening. For a simple reason: Both Rubio and Cruz value their personal ambitions more highly than they value having a conservative nominee. It really is that simple when you cut through it. Same goes for Duncan Hunter and all of the other “conservatives” in Congress who are quietly planning to jump aboard the Trump bandwagon now that his nomination is assured. It’s fashionable to say that Trump “broke the GOP” — I’m sure I’ve said it myself as shorthand for the disaster that’s upon us — but that’s not true at all. The GOP will slog on with nearly all of the same personnel. What Trump broke is the dual illusion that the conservative movement drives the Republican Party and that the conservative movement is composed mostly of people who believe devoutly in conservatism as an ideology. It isn’t. They may identify as “conservative” as a way to signal that they hate the left and political correctness, or simply because claiming you’re “conservative” has been a vehicle for instant respectability within the GOP ever since the Reagan revolution, but give them someone like Trump who’ll loudly defend some of the cultural impulses that drive conservatism while shrugging at policy and they’ll happily take that. That’s why movement conservatives are so traumatized by Trumpism — it’s not that he’s killing the GOP, about which no one really cares, but that he’s exposing that movement conservatism for many, many supposed adherents is an inch deep. Stroke people’s amygdalas with enough garbage about being an alpha male and standing up for yourself and bombing the sh*t out of your enemies and how many really care about the size of government?
We’ll see how firmly Cruz and Rubio oppose Trump in their post-candidate incarnations. I’m positive that they’re both ideological conservatives on most issues, but they might not spend much energy highlighting that fact in their disagreements with Trump going forward. Here’s Amanda Carpenter, a former spokesman for Cruz, pleading with him to drop his “true conservative” stump speech and talk more directly to people about the issues without all the ideological claptrap, which obviously isn’t working. That’s good advice, but it’s good advice only because Cruz’s baseline assumption about the Republican electorate and its commitment to conservatism has proved egregiously wrong. Cruz thought he could win a primary by being the most conservative of ’em all. Turns out most “conservatives” don’t care about conservatism. What now?
— Jason Whitely (@JasonWhitely) February 25, 2016