Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz Leads Republican Primary Poll, Rand Paul Comes In Second

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After Texas Sen. Ted Cruz staged his 21-hour quasi-filibuster last week opposing government funding for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Public Policy Polling finds him leading in the polls of Republican primary voters at 20 percent. However, running right behind Cruz is Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul at 17 percent, within the poll's +/- 3.6% margin of error. Following Cruz and Paul is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 14 percent, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 11 percent, 10 percent each for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, 4 percent for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and 3 percent each for former Sen. Rick Santorum and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Varying degrees of conservatism predicts support for Cruz, Paul, or Christie. Republicans who identify as "very conservative" prefer Cruz, those who identify as "somewhat conservative" support Paul, and "moderate" Republicans prefer Christie.

While Cruz' speech won him support among the Republican primary base, a plurality (41 percent) of Americans viewed his speech as an "unnecessary" political stunt," according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll. Thirty-two percent viewed the speech as a "good way to make an important point."

Nevertheless, even after the 21-hour long speech, nearly half of Americans still do not have an opinion of Ted Cruz, and roughly equal numbers have a positive or negative opinion of the Senator. This suggests that Cruz' move earned him support among prospective Republican primary voters without garnering too much attention of moderate voters.

Cruz' strategy appealed to opponents of the health care law, as 61 percent would rather use the budget process to force a repeal of the health care law even if it shuts down the federal government. Had moderate voters been more aware of Cruz' speech, they may have been less supportive, since most Americans prefer Congress to compromise even if they don't like the result. Nevertheless, the HuffPost/YouGov poll found divided support for cutting off ACA funding as part of any budget agreement, with 39 percent in favor and 41 percent opposed.

While a plurality may view Cruz' marathon speech as political grandstanding, it may still have been a strategic move because it has done more to bolster support among prospective Republican primary voters than to disenchant voters in the middle.