Ted Cruz is now the flavor of the week. He has risen dramatically in polls, both nationally and in key states like Iowa, and now many pundits are saying he’s the man to watch. Maybe so, but that vastly underestimates the challenge the very conservative senator from Texas still faces.
Cruz’s rise is almost entirely due to his finally getting strong levels of support among the most angry and the most conservative elements of the party. If they were the party, it would be looking pretty good for Ted. But they are not, and therein lies Cruz’s challenge. Call it the Cruz Ted bears.
The data are clear that Cruz is consolidating the party’s Tea Party and very conservative factions. Three national polls in November break Republicans into three ideological categories, dividing conservatives into “very” and “somewhat” conservatives. They all show Cruz’s support comes primarily from that first group. Quinnipiac has him with 27 percent among very conservatives, 7 percent among somewhat conservatives, and 6 percent among moderates. McClatchy/Marist has him at 21-8-5 among those three groups, and Public Policy Polling (PPP) has him at 29-10-1. The ideological right likes him a lot, while the center and the left of the Party are at best lukewarm towards him.