Nothing unites the tea party and the political left in Florida like Ted Cruz.
Both want the Texas senator, who's on a two-day Florida tour, to run for president in 2016.
The conservatives want a man who represents their principles, and jabs a rhetorical finger in the eye of the Washington establishment. Democrats want Cruz because they believe he’s a sure loser in Florida, the nation’s largest swing state that Republicans generally need to win the White House.
And polls indicate Democrats are right. In Florida, it’s tough to find a Republican candidate who fares worse against the Democrats’ likely nominee, Hillary Clinton. She bests Cruz by as much as 20 percentage points.
So it’s little wonder that Democrats are gleeful that Cruz headlined a Sarasota Republican event Thursday, and was proclaimed "Statesman of the Year." Tonight, he keynotes a Palm Beach Lincoln Day Dinner, where newly minted Lieutenant Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera will speak as well.
For Democrats and the progressive community, the stark contrast between Hillary and someone like Cruz -- who wants gridlock and divisiveness -- would be a dream match,” said Christian Ulvert, the Florida Democratic Party's political director. "Ted Cruz alienates everyone except the tea party."
“I spent all of last week in Washington, D.C. -- It is great to be back in America,” Cruz said in Sarasota last night. It’s a signature phrase of his that Republicans love. By all accounts, Cruz electrified the crowd, tacitly acknowledging a call to impeach President Obama.
“It’s obvious that the state is aware that he is listening,” Sarasota GOP Chair Joe Gruters told the conservative website Breitbart, “and they’re excited about what Ted Cruz is saying and it certainly cuts across the bow of the establishment in D.C.”
Florida polls tell a different story about how much voters favor Cruz.
The last Florida survey from Quinnipiac University showed that Cruz would fare worse against Clinton than Chris Christie -- even as the “bridgegate” scandal began ripping apart the New Jersey governor’s poll number.
Clinton topped Christie 51-35 percent, but clobbered Cruz 54-34 percent. That 20-point margin in Clinton’s favor was bigger than any other against hypothetical GOP contenders: Jeb Bush (6); Marco Rubio (10); Paul Ryan (13) and Rand Paul (16).
The Sarasota GOP’s decision to give Cruz a “Statesman” award underscores the problems that Rubio has with the base. Rubio was the face of bipartisan immigration reform in the Senate. It passed; Rubio was excoriated by the right and now the guy associated with partially shutting down the government is their idea of a “statesman” in his home state.
The Democratic National Committee made sure to tie Rubio to Cruz in a press release that said of the Texas senator "This is what a ‘Statesman’ looks like to Florida Republicans: pro-shutdown, anti-extending unemployment benefits, anti-immigration reform, anti-paying our nation's bills.”
Hard-core Republicans will complain that everyone has it wrong, that the party needs a hard-core conservative. And they'll note that the Q-poll oversampled Democrats (some background here on that debate).
But the crosstabs of the poll show serious trouble for Cruz as well. Independents favor Clinton by 24 points – the largest spread. And only 2 percent of Democrats said they’d vote for Cruz. Yes, Democrats don’t vote Republican (and vice-versa), but that number speaks of deep partisan revulsion.
Poll numbers change. And 2016 is political light years away. But Cruz is a tea party crusader and his brand of Lone Star partisanship isn’t looking like Florida’s cup of tea in a statewide presidential election.