One of the negatives that has been hung on Ted Cruz is that he is too abrasive to win. Over and over you read about his “likability” problem with no greater definition ever put forward much larger than “I don’t like him.” An for the record, I call bull**** on “likability” as anything more substantial than one of the many old wives’s tales put forward by failed political consultants to shift blame onto the candidate they recently schlonged (I believe that is the technical term). It could conceivably be a factor in very close elections with a very stupid electorate but if it was real, George Bush would not have lost the popular vote to Al Gore and Richard Nixon would have been thrashed by a very amiable Hubert Humphrey.
Yet, in something of a paradox, the very people who are saying Cruz is too abrasive and not likable is demonstrating a moral failing by not attacking Donald Trump. Why is that? It is easy to see the downside of attacking Trump (look at how well it worked out for Jeb Bush). First, Trump gets more attention. Second, the story for Cruz would become what he and Trump had slung at each other that day, not the issues Cruz wants to talk about. This plays into Trump’s “trump” hand, which is over-the-top Twitter wars, and against anyone who wants to be perceived as serious. And there is the electoral side at play. A good portion of Trump’s voters say Cruz is their second choice. He’s not going to win them by attacking Trump. Plus, Cruz attacking Trump would inevitably feed back into the Cruz is abrasive and Cruz isn’t likable narrative.
In the same vein, Huckabee and some other are attacking Cruz over his statement at a New York fundraiser. Cruz refused to say that fighting homosexual marriage would be his top priority. There is a very good reason for that. It would be silly to say that your top priority for the nation would be overturning a Supreme Court decision when it is pretty clear that he would have to replace at least one member of the majority with a justice who was amenable to overturning that decision. Rather Cruz said his priority was on defending religious liberty which is clearly the battle that is being fought. Again, the people claiming to see hypocrisy in Cruz’s statement ignore that the position of most social conservatives, whether we’re talking abortion or homosexual marriage, is that those are decisions that should be resolved at the state level and are not federal issues. This is not hypocrisy but consistency. What the people making the stink are really objecting to is that Cruz’s measured and reasonable answer does not feed into the narrative they would like to build of Cruz as an unreasonable, unthinking, doctrinaire hardline conservative.
So Cruz represents something of a paradox. If he does what his detractors demand, then they will attack him for being their preferred stereotype. If he doesn’t do what they demand and follows his own strategy, then he’s a gutless hypocrite.
Fortunately, the polls don’t indicate that is working all that well for Huckabee and others who are trying to slow Cruz down.
Full disclosure. I am not paid by any candidate or campaign and Ted Cruz is my preferred candidate.
Image via Marc Nozell and Flickr Creative Commons