Did someone declare today a fact-free Friday and we just missed the memo? A story published on the Fox Latino website about Sen. Ted Cruz headlined “Ted Cruz Puts His Popularity on the Line” speculates a plenty based on quotes from Republicans in Texas, but doesn’t bother to consider any bit of the considerable amount of evidence one might bring to bear on the premise – presumably because the most recent evidence points in the opposite direction, rendering said premise contentious at best and an example of manufacturing a storyline at worst.
The premise is not prima facie without merit. It might even be buttressed by evidence that, not surprisingly, Cruz’s visibility and success in a GOP presidential primary defined by Donald Trump’s caustic rhetoric resulted in some erosion of his approval and favorability ratings in Texas, including among Republicans.
But the decline was a relative one given that his numbers were astronomically high prior to the primary, and improvement in those numbers in the most recent polling suggests that Cruz’s standing is recovering – Cruz’s fidgetiness on the Trump nomination notwithstanding. Data released today finds Cruz’s job approval rating in Texas up 10 points since the June 2016 UT/Texas Politics Project Poll, and, maybe most importantly, up to just shy of 80 percent among Tea Party Republicans – similar to his standing in February of this year before all of the presidential unpleasantness.
|Neither approve nor disapprove||11%||16%||11%|
And it’s not as if the bottom fell out of his numbers at home. He dipped among Republicans in June to only 60 percent approval and to 72 percent approval among Tea Party Republicans. Seventy-six percent of Texans who describe themselves as extremely conservative have a favorable view of the Senator. These are not the kind of numbers that should make an incumbent Texas Republican nervous, even if they are below his high water mark (92 percent approval among Tea Party Republicans!). These numbers in no way suggests that Cruz's popularity has been put on any line by his to-and-fro on Trump between June and October – a period in which his ratings actually improved in key slices of the Texas Republican electorate.
|Neither approve nor disapprove||12%||13%||6%|
The story pegs its premise to Cruz’s shifting positions on Donald Trump, a reasonable and much-speculated upon thing to wonder. The unnamed writer or writers assert the following, emphasis added.
The moves [regarding Trump’s nomination] by Cruz angered some establishment Texas Republicans who never fully supported him while alienating parts of his tea party base that had long since embraced Trump and wondered what took Cruz so long. Also disappointed were true-believer conservatives who liked Cruz's shunning of Trump and were sorry to see him abandon it.
The evidence supporting this premise ignores the ample polling available that would provide a better read of the Texas Republican electorate. (For example, Tea Party Republicans have embraced Trump far less than their non-Tea Party brethren according to our polling data) and instead embraces a tried and true story telling method: cherry picking quotes from sources selected to support the story’s premise. The case is buttressed by the speculation of a Texas Tea Party luminary quoted as saying “I believe that he will have a challenger," (though she asserts Cruz’s remaining strength among Texas conservatives a few grafs down), mention of the trial balloons launched by Cruz opponents that Congressman Michael McCaul might challenge Cruz, and other quotes that actually suggest Cruz isn’t in trouble.
We know that J-schools are urging their kids to tell stories, but presumably they don’t mean just stringing together quotes in a flight of fancy to tell the story they want to tell without looking at readily available evidence that may change the pre-conceived story that they have in their heads before they actually get started.
As long as we’re speculating, there is good reason to think that many other Texas Republicans, as well as national ones, will be in the same boat as Cruz should Trump lose the election. They will all have a lot of incentives to handle it in a similar way: by forgetting the Trump candidacy ever happened, which given the Republican lock on elective offices in Texas and their apparent insulation from Trump, will happen relatively quickly. Then, as now, it seems a sure thing that some Republicans in the state would be eager to have the kinds of approval numbers Cruz continues to receive from Texas Republicans.