New YouGov/CBS poll... what the heck happened to Ted Cruz?

Another week and yet another set of polls which, to be honest, don’t offer us any headlines we haven’t already read. I will qualify that first sentence with one caveat, though… YouGov, as a polling company, is creating some news. These are internet polls, once thought of as the most easily rigged, limited in scope and generally partisan or useless of all samples. But they have somehow managed to establish a track record of matching the results and accuracy of traditional, phone based polling and now are being sought out to partner with all sorts of news outlets. This time it’s CBS News.

As to the results, we can sweep the Democrat side out of the way fairly quickly, and I’ll leave it to one of our other writers to expand upon it if they wish. Bottom line: Bernie Sanders is still kicking Hillary Clinton’s backside in Iowa and New Hampshire, having broken the 50% ceiling in the latter, but she’s still crushing him by a two to one margin in South Carolina. Excitable cable news talkers are seeing this as a sign that Joe Biden should be getting into the race or that Sanders as the nominee should be viewed as a real possibility. As for me, I think we’ll have to wait until the big survey outlets start polling a lot more states. Sanders has put almost all of his eggs in the Iowa and New Hampshire baskets, but if he can’t carry it past those two states it could still fall apart quickly.

As usual, I’m more interested in the GOP side of the results. As far as the top line numbers go there isn’t much changing. Trump is in first place in all three states and Carson is hanging out in second place. Between the two of them they take more than fifty percent of the GOP’s likely primary voters. Here’s the fast snapshot of the top ten in each state, with the dark blue (left) numbers representing respondents’ first choice and the light blue (right) numbers being their second choice:


As I mentioned above, aside from Carson settling back into a comfortable second in Iowa, nothing much has changed. Trump is on top and Carson is the only other person drawing significant support. That may change further down the road as more “non-outsiders” drop out, but that assumption relies on all of the Not Trump Or Carson voters lining up behind one of the other fourteen hopefuls. (Likely? I wouldn’t bet on it, but time will tell.)

On to the main point of my ponderings this morning. To begin with, we need to switch the story away from YouGov’s top secret fortress and over to Orlando, Florida, where Freedomworks for America hosted their Grassroots Summit this weekend. They held a straw poll among some of the more dedicated, conservative activists who attended and the results were fairly clear.

The final results for the top three vote getters were as follows:

Sen. Ted Cruz – 41%

Ben Carson – 12%

Donald Trump – 8%

If the last three months of political news had never happened, this headline wouldn’t have come as a shock to me. (Or likely to most conservatives.) Back in April and May I was fairly well convinced that there was going to be a race shaping up by this point which would pit an establishment candidate (Bush or Christie, for example) against a grassroots, outsider challenger. Walker looked like the wildcard who might fit both molds, but among all the candidates for that “not cut from the DC cloth” mantle, Ted Cruz certainly looked like a solid bet.

As I’d written going back to 2013, even I was initially skeptical of Ted Cruz but the guy managed to win me over once we all got a chance to know him outside of Texas. He had seemingly mastered the feat of invading Washington rather than being absorbed by it. He stuck a finger in everyone’s eye, be it the GOP establishment, the Democrats or the media. And yet he did it in such a way that he always sounded like the most reasoned, intellectual person you would care to meet during interviews and stump speeches. He’s got experience as a debater at the highest levels (Harvard) and has argued cases before the Supreme Court. And if you are really upset with Washington, DC, he’s right there with you.

So what happened? When you get him in a smaller room or talk about him with conservative activists, he’s a winner. (As we just saw in Orlando.) But on the national front he’s withering along with everyone else in the face of the Trump / Carson onslaught. I’m just not getting it. Don’t’ get me wrong… I understand the appeal of Trump and why he’s doing so well. But the fact that Cruz isn’t essentially wiping out more of the rest of the field and sucking up that support as a counter-Trump movement is a mystery. What’s not to like?

Have we actually gotten to the point where Ted Cruz is being considered “insufficiently conservative” today? If so, then please let me know. I’m not trying to squelch your voice in the debate or declare you to be wrong, but when the giant rabbit with a top hat and a pocket watch comes along I’d like to have some pads and a helmet on before we head down the hole.

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