Looks like Ted Cruz has begun to peak at just the right moment. A new national poll from Quinnipiac puts the Texas Senator within four points of Donald Trump for the lead, within the margin of error for registered Republican voters. Trump trounces both Cruz and Hillary Clinton for another honor … a dubious one:

Six weeks before the Iowa Caucuses open the 2016 presidential race in earnest, Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz lead the Republican field nationally, but Trump trails either Democratic candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and 50 percent of American voters say they would be embarrassed to have Trump as president, according to a Quinnipiac University National poll released today.

Trump has 28 percent of the GOP pack, with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 24 percent. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has 12 percent and Dr. Ben Carson has 10 percent, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds. No other candidate tops 6 percent with 8 percent undecided. But 58 percent of those who name a candidate might change their mind.

This is a big move for Cruz — eight points in three weeks for the Q-poll series. It broke a three-way deadlock for second place, as both Rubio and Carson dropped in the polls, by five and six points respectively. The other somewhat significant move came from Chris Christie, who rose four points to get to 6%, and who now has passed Jeb Bush to gain fifth place overall. No one else’s support changed even close to the margin of error, and the same 8% still don’t have a candidate preference.

Cruz appears to be improving on his likability, too. He gets a 35/33 rating overall and a 34/28 among independents. It’s not as good as Marco Rubio, whose +9 at 37/28 is the best in the GOP field (and 38/24 among independents), but Cruz has had issues on likability in the past. He’s doing better than Ben Carson on this question, who has slipped to negative numbers overall, 36/38.

The “embarrassment” question mostly serves a need to find a publicity hook for the poll this deep into the primary-debate cycle. By this time, voters probably can’t easily distinguish which topline result came from which pollster, which is why they have begun to ask provocative and self-answering questions like this, or “Would you vote for Darth Vader or Donald Trump?” Skip that, and take a look at this comparison instead:

Clinton has the right kind of experience to be president, American voters say 63 – 35 percent, while Trump does not have the experience, voters say 67 – 29 percent. But Clinton and Trump are close on several key qualities. American voters say:

  • 59 – 35 percent that Clinton is not honest and trustworthy;
  • 58 – 40 percent that she has strong leadership qualities;
  • 50 – 46 percent that she does not care about their needs and problems;
  • 55 – 42 percent that she does not share their values.

Looking at Trump, voters say:

  • 58 – 36 percent that he is not honest and trustworthy;
  • 58 – 39 percent that he has strong leadership qualities;
  • 57 – 38 percent that he does not care about their needs and problems;
  • 61 – 34 percent that he does not share their values.

That will be a problem for Republicans if Trump wins the nomination, even apart from any supposed “embarrassment” factor. In terms of personal and emotional connections to voters, he’s basically the Hillary Clinton of the Republicans — and Hillary has a much larger organization already on the ground to get out votes. This is actually Hillary’s big vulnerability this cycle, in that she has no potential for reassembling the Obama coalition, and it is also the Republicans’ big opportunity. However, to take advantage of it, they need a nominee who can both personally resonate with a general-election electorate and run a superior ground organization.

This is the reason why Hillary can’t get above 44% with Rubio or Cruz, but scores a 7-point lead over Donald Trump at 47/40. These numbers make a strong case that Trump won’t be able to overcome that. And really, can anyone imagine a Trump campaign that would try to make the case that he shares the values of middle America?

Interestingly, Quinnipiac didn’t ask those series of questions about the other Republicans. I’d bet that they start asking them about Ted Cruz the next time around.