Cruz's favorable rating nosedives after Trump non-endorsement

Ed mentioned this in passing in the last post but it deserves extra attention. How often do you see a guy’s favorable rating within his own party cut nearly in half in the span of two weeks?

Cruz’s move, however, appears to have backfired. While 60% of Republican voters had a positive impression of the former presidential candidate before the convention, just 33% have one now.

I’m … not sure where CNN’s getting that number. When you scroll down through the crosstabs to the section on Cruz’s favorable rating, you find that Republicans overall split 41/49 while Republican registered voters split 41/52. Bad news either way, but not quite the disaster noted in CNN’s write-up. In fact, he’s still net positive among Republican registered voters who supported someone other than Trump in the primary:


On the other hand, check out his numbers among white evangelicals, whom he’s counting on to be a key part of his base when he runs for president again. Opposition among pro-Trump Republicans is even more lopsided, which means Cruz’s plan to unite populists of various stripes on the right has disintegrated unless Trump fans have very short memories. None of which, by the way, is strictly inconsistent with that Echelon poll on Friday showing a plurality of viewers approved of his decision not to endorse Trump. Most of the support he got on that doubtless came from Democrats who hate Cruz and went on hating him despite enjoying his middle finger to Trump. The bulk of the opposition surely came from Republicans who used to like him and now don’t. Voila — a decline in overall popularity. And it’s not just grassroots Republicans who are mad at Cruz. This must have sent a chill down his spine:

“Last summer and again this year, Senator Ted Cruz pledged to support the candidacy of the nominee of the Republican Party, whomever that nominee might be,” the Mercers, who rarely comment in the news media, said in the statement to The New York Times. “We are profoundly disappointed that on Wednesday night he chose to disregard this pledge.”

The statement continued: “The Democratic Party will soon choose as their nominee a candidate who would repeal both the First and Second Amendments of the Bill of Rights, a nominee who would remake the Supreme Court in her own image. We need ‘all hands on deck’ to ensure that Mr. Trump prevails.”

“Unfortunately,” the statement added, “Senator Cruz has chosen to remain in his bunk below, a decision both regrettable and revealing.”

“The Mercers” are Robert and Rebekah Mercer, two of the biggest donors to Cruz’s campaign this year. If he’s lost them he’ll have to replace millions of dollars in donations next time — and if he’s lost them, chances are he’s also lost some of the people he’d be hoping to replace them with. Cruz’s master plan a month ago, I assume, was based on the expectation that Trump would run behind Clinton consistently until fall and then collapse in the polls in October ahead of a landslide defeat. Republican recriminations would be brutal and conservatives would scurry to pretend that they had never much liked Trump and knew he was a sure loser all along. Cruz would reap the benefits as people lied and claimed that they were with Ted in his non-endorsement. Then Cruz would assert himself as the leader of a conservative revivalist post-Trump GOP in opposition to President Hillary. In reality, a month later, Trump is ahead in the polls and he’s now considerably more popular than Cruz is. (Trump’s favorable rating in today’s CNN survey is net -5. Cruz’s is … net -34.) Between the Mercers defecting and Cruz’s support sliding even among elements of his own base, he’ll need to stop thinking about 2020 now and focus on getting reelected in 2018. That’s a straightforward process if Hillary wins: He’ll spend every day between January 2017 and November 2018 attacking Clinton and the left viciously, as nothing rebuilds party support like Team Red/Team Blue tribalism. If Trump wins, though, Cruz has no choice now but to toady to him in the Senate. If he’s a thorn in Trump’s side, all of the current annoyance at him for not being a team player will solidify. If he kisses ass — and there’s nothing Trump enjoys more than ass-kissing — Trump will forgive him publicly and say that we need Ted in the Senate to protect Republican leverage there and that’ll probably be enough to get Cruz reelected. It’s Trump’s party now. That’s the lesson of the reaction to Cruz.

As for the rest of CNN’s poll today, which both Jazz and Ed have written about, let me note a few key trendlines that help explain why Trump got his convention bounce. Here’s a curious result given that he’s picked up several points in support:


A man who’s gaining in the polls should also have more people saying they’re more likely to vote for him now than less likely, right? Well, no: The same thing is happening here as happened in the Echelon poll about Cruz’s speech, namely, Democratic reaction is obscuring the truth of what’s really going on. Just as many Dems liked Cruz’s speech but would never vote for him, many Dems who were already never voting for Trump likely decided that they’re even less likely to vote for him after his speech. Most of the 44 percent here, in other words, were already goners. It’s the 42 percent that’s key since that probably included a bunch of independents, Trump-skeptical righties, and even centrist Democrats who were iffy on Trump before. As for those trendlines, here’s the number who answer “apply” and “does not apply,” respectively, when given certain statements about Trump:


Those are notable gains in a short time period, and they’re not the only ones. His numbers when people are asked if they’d be proud to have him as president are still terrible at 39/59, but in mid-July they were 30/67. Against any other candidate that would be fatal, but Hillary Clinton’s numbers are now (very slightly) worse than Trump’s on this question. She’s at 38/60, down from 42/57. The biggest danger for Trump, I think, is that people decide he’s not only not qualified to be president but that he’d be an outright buffoon in office. Per these CNN numbers, he’s already solved his second problem (at least as it relates to Hillary) and can solve his first by sticking to a disciplined economic message for the next two months and then preparing diligently for the debates. It’s conventional wisdom on the left that Hillary will crush him onstage in September because she knows what she’s talking about on policy and he doesn’t, but (a) Republican voters didn’t care that Cruz and Rubio knew what they were talking about while Trump didn’t, and (b) the bar for Trump is so low that if he went out there and sounded semi-coherent on policy for 90 minutes, the public might be so surprised and impressed that he’d begin to pull away in the polls. I think the sense that he’s not up to the job intellectually is his only fatal weakness. He can cure it, though, and there’s not much she can do to make it worse. It may be his election to lose now.

Update: For what it’s worth.