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Cruz Zigged While the GOP Electorate Zagged


The Cruz campaign’s attempt to coalesce the #NeverTrump movement around their candidate #NeverHappened. In hindsight, the attempt to position him as the establishment alternative may not have been the wisest move.

Ted Cruz entered the 2016 presidential race with a reputation as the Senate Republican conference’s enfant terrible. He ended his campaign as the establishment’s last hope to deny Donald Trump the party’s nomination. The problem is that GOP voters’ desire for a political outsider intensified just as he was making this pivot.

Exit polls conducted by the national media’s National Election Pool asked voters in 24 different contests this year whether the next president should have experience in politics or be from outside the political establishment.

In the first four contests held in February, Republican voters were divided – 49 percent wanted an outsider while 45 percent favored someone with political experience. The preference for an insider fell off in early March’s Super Tuesday primaries – with 49 percent still wanting an outsider but only 41 percent looking for political experience.

By the mid-March primaries, a 52 percent majority of GOP voters preferred a political outsider compared to 41 percent who still wanted an experienced politician. The gap widened in the April contests, with nearly 6-in-10 Republicans (59 percent) wanting an outsider and just 37 percent favoring an insider. In yesterday’s Indiana primary, the results for this question stood at 59 percent outsider and 35 percent insider.

The Cruz recasting gambit worked to the extent that he was ultimately seen as the establishment candidate – 68 percent of Indiana Republicans who want an insider voted for him. In the very first contest of 2016 – the Iowa caucuses – Marco Rubio was actually the preferred candidate of voters wanting someone with political experience, even though Cruz was the overall winner on the night.

However, Donald Trump has been the favored choice of GOP voters looking for a true outsider since the very beginning of the primary season. He won 46 percent of this group’s vote in Iowa, culminating with a 78 percent showing in Indiana three months later.

“In retrospect, Cruz’s pivot to being the face of the establishment was a mistake. Cruz ceded the outsider mantle to Trump at the very same time the Republican base’s desire for an outsider grew,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

4 Replies to “Cruz Zigged While the GOP Electorate Zagged”

  1. Anonymous says:

    It is ironic in that the Republican establishment hates Cruz. They feared that he would end their power. Now they are already cozying up to Trump who while not a politician was never an outsider. It just shows how easily the voters are fooled.

  2. MAZ says:

    I think most voters consider an 'outsider' to be someone who has not held a political office. And many view the fact that Trump has to work with politicians to get business done is a positive thing, not a negative. The average voter would never look at Cruz and say he's an outsider. Or can you show me a poll that says differently?

  3. MAZ says:

    I think it's very interesting how far off many of the polls have been in these races…ex. Bernie kicking Hillary in Indiana. And the media seems to be equally far off because they're paying so much attention to the polls to influence their spin.

  4. MAZ says:

    One huge factor that the polls are having a hard time getting 'hands' around is the fact that so many people are voting for Trump even though they're not 'coming out' for Trump. Voting, versus supporting are two very different things.

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