Cruz Claims Victory over Clinton — in his mind
Sitting perfectly yet characteristically composed in the library of a Jewish community center situated in the heartland of New York City’s Orthodox Jewish stronghold, Republican presidential hopeful and Texas Senator Ted Cruz beamed over his recent primary victories in a April 7 interview with CNN’s Dana Bash.
“What I can tell you is that the energy we’re receiving from the grassroots is overwhelming,” he answered in response to Bash’s question regarding his ability to unite the fractured GOP party. “That’s the unity it’s going to take to unite the party and that’s the unity it’s going to take to beat Hillary Clinton.”
Cruz currently trails Donald Trump in the total number of political endorsements received from GOP politicians, an electorate that he needs to tap into in order to secure the party’s nomination in July. Only recently did past presidential candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Governor Scott Walker, Senator Lindsey Graham and Carly Fiorina endorse his bid for presidency, arguably in a last-minute attempt to halt the momentum on Trump’s delegate lead by bridging the large gap between the two candidates.
Fresh out of two consecutive caucus and primary victories in Utah and Wisconsin, both of which he beat Donald Trump and John Kasich by significant margins, Cruz and his campaign have been working vigorously to translate these seemingly isolated victories into an overall image of collective success, painting him as the Republican frontrunner that will face Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton in the general election in November.
Bash was not buying his optimism. When grilled on why he doesn’t have the majority of support from the establishment Republican party, notwithstanding the few prominent endorsements he’s received so far in the race, Cruz passionately responded:
“My focus is on beating Hillary Clinton and poll after poll after poll shows Donald losing badly to Hillary and poll after poll after poll shows me beating Hillary.”
This prescient assertion rests on the assumption that both Cruz and Clinton will become their respective party’s presidential nominee by receiving the threshold amount of delegates needed (2,383 for Democrats and 1,237 for Republicans) or in a contested convention in the case that neither candidate reaches the threshold. In a presidential race that has, to date, seen major power shifts, surprising leads and fallouts, Cruz’s hopeful optimism cannot be crushed just yet.
What can be crushed, however, is the credibility of Cruz’s constant reiteration of his supposed lead “poll after poll after poll.” He has hammered home the point in the form of passionate rhetoric that he is the only Republican candidate that can “beat Hillary Clinton”— more so than Trump and Kasich — pointing towards the national polls that forecast him as the ultimate winner. But the question remains: where are these polls he speaks of?
Kasich, not Cruz, leading frontrunner in polls
Real Clear Politics (RCP) aggregates national and state-wide polling data and forecasts the winner based on this data by predicting polling trends. In national polls as recent as yesterday, April 9, pitting Cruz against Clinton in the general election, Clinton comes out as the clear winner in both the RCP Average (leading by 2.8 points) and 2/3 of individual national polls. Fox News is the only poll that consistently shows Cruz winning by more than 2 points and with little to no overlaps in its margin of error.
More importantly, the same polling data shows Kasich beating Hillary Clinton by an RCP average of 6.6 points, a much larger margin of victory for the Republican candidate than a Clinton victory over Cruz. Even more impressive is the fact that Kasich dominated Clinton in every single national poll in the past month, a feat that even the most popular candidates have failed to do.
The HuffPost Pollster, currently tracking 112 polls from 23 different pollsters, has reached the same verdict: Clinton will beat Cruz in the general election, this time by 3.8 percentage points. Included in this aggregation is the credible IPSOS/Reuters poll that shows Clinton leading with a staggering 8 points over the Texas senator. And once again, just like the RCP poll— this time tracking 34 polls from 15 different pollsters — it predicts a Kasich victory over Clinton by 5.5 percentage points.
What the data show is that the Republican candidate that is the most electable over Clinton is not Cruz, but Kasich. Given the latter’s broad appeal to college students, moderates and party unifiers in a contest that is bifurcated along ideological lines, it makes sense why Kasich’s homely demeanor and soft-spokeness in an aggressive political arena makes him the more electable candidate.
While both polling magnates reveal the same fate — Cruz losing to Clinton — it is important to assess the credibility of any polling data, never taking any statements at face value. A recent study by Ole J. Forsburg and Mark E. Payton analyzing the precision of polling predictions to actual electoral outcomes in the presidential races of 2004, 2008 and 2012 revealed that national polling data tends to underestimate Democrats. As younger voters increasingly turn to cellphones, abandoning the use of landlines as a result, polling methodology favors older voters (more likely to vote Republican) who still have landlines and thus, still show up in public phone records. Therefore, state polling is a more reliable predictor of the presidential race.
Both RCP and HuffPost Pollster take this caveat into consideration by aggregating national and state polls, making the predictions reliable enough to raise skepticism over Cruz’s claims of a sure victory over Clinton — an outcome that the very sources he vehemently asserts put him at the forefront of a GOP domination dispel all notions of him ascending to the White House on January 20, 2017.
Ironically, his attempt at securing legitimacy in the race by referring to polls merely exposed his own prospects of losing in the general election. In light of this, Bash was justified in exercising due caution and skepticism over Cruz’s confident statements when polls reveal the opposite, a practice that ought to be adopted by every voting citizen to ensure that politicians are held fully accountable to the truth.
So what does this mean for Cruz? Realistically, while there remains a path forward for his nomination as the Republican candidate — he’ll have to win the majority of all upcoming caucuses and primaries — he stands no chance against Clinton or Sanders if the polls are accurate, making his quest for the presidency hopelessly futile. And in an unfortunate twist of fate, the only Republican who can beat the Democratic nominee, Kasich, is out of contention unless the nomination goes to a contested convention. But even then, it’s clear that polls are not the GOP’s strongest suit.