“I don’t know how he’s going to deal with Congress. Nobody likes him. . . . If he’s the nominee, we’re going to have wholesale losses in Congress and state offices and governors and legislatures.” (here) That was the blunt assessment of Bob Dole, elder statesman of the Republican Party, when summing up Ted Cruz’s Presidential candidacy. With all due respect to the former Senator from Kansas, 1996 Republican Presidential Nominee (just think, if he had beaten Bill Clinton, we wouldn’t have Hillary to worry about), and war hero, I think he overstates the case. I find it hard to believe that “nobody” likes Ted Cruz. Surely someone, somewhere, must like Ted Cruz. Just apparently not any of the people he works with in Congress.
Of course, Bob Dole could be out in left field when it comes to Cruz’s likability — or lack thereof — preventing the Texas Senator from capturing the White House. But, if Cruz does happen to outlast Trump, Rubio, Bush, and the rest of the Republican field to win the nomination, he would be the most unlikable candidate to win the GOP nomination since Richard Nixon. For all his comparisons to Ronald Reagan, Ted Cruz is no Ronald Reagan. As far as his political personality is concerned, Cruz is the conservative, mirror-image of another Ivy League-trained lawyer who became President — Barack Obama. Both are hyper-partisans who seem to have a difficult time establishing friendly relations with people in their own party, much less the opposing party. And, both are dividers, not uniters.
Cruz supporters (as I’m sure Nixon’s did in an earlier generation) will argue that likability is not important. It’s all about the issues. Well, for a very small segment of the electorate, that may be true. Tea Party supporters and voters who like straight-talking candidates who “tell it like it is and let the chips fall where they may” see Cruz’s un-likability as a non-issue. That would be a fatal mistake, not just in the Republican Primaries, but most importantly in the General Election.
Likability is not the be-all-end-all in politics, but to completely discount a candidate’s likability when it comes to voters is a recipe for disaster. With Cruz as the nominee, would it be a debacle the scale of Barry Goldwater’s in the 1964 Presidential Election? Or, would Cruz, like Richard Nixon, overcome his own personality, to take the Presidency in a landslide election? While it would be nice to fantasize about a Republican victory as massive as Ronald Reagan’s in 1984, anyone who seriously believes that any Republican candidate — including Donald Trump — could pull off such a massive upset is deluding themselves.
I am inclined to agree with Bob Dole that a Ted Cruz candidacy in the General Election would lead to “cataclysmic losses.” After all, anyone who can make Donald (“NYC Values”) Trump look more likable is prone to do the same with Hillary Clinton. And, that’s saying something. If Bernie Sanders somehow ended up as the Democratic Nominee, then the likability factor would not even be close. All things being equal, even when we have to hold our nose when casting a ballot for a particular candidate, most voters want to support someone whom they like. A candidate’s un-likability may even cause some voters to stay home on election day. That’s human nature.
Although I probably agree with most of Ted Cruz’s positions on the issues (for the record, I am supporting Marco Rubio), I do not care for his public persona or his political strategies. He is just not my cup of tea. In fact, I don’t like tea, sweet or otherwise. Call me part of the “Establishment” or a member of the “Donor Class” (although I have never contributed a single dime to any candidate). Question my conservative bona fides if you must. However, if Ted Cruz is the Republican nominee for President, I will hold my nose as I cast my vote. I won’t like it because Senator Cruz, in my opinion, is an un-likeable candidate. But, what’s the alternative? Hillary Clinton? Bernie Sanders? I shouldn’t be too hasty. Cruz might not be as un-likable as I thought.