U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) makes remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Oxon Hill, Maryland, March 6, 2014. Thousands of conservative activists, Republicans and Tea Party Patriots gather to hear politicians, presidential hopefuls, and business leaders speak, lobby and network for a conservative agenda, looking to Congressional gains in 2014 and a Republican president in 2016. REUTERS/Mike Theiler (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) (Mike Theiler/Reuters)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) may be popular among hard-line conservatives nationally, but back home he’s in some hot water. According to an Emerson College poll, his favorability is underwater, by a margin of 43 to 48 percent. Moreover, his favorable/unfavorable rating with women is 39 to 50 percent. I asked the poll director for further detail and found:

Republicans: 74 percent favorable, 18 percent unfavorable
Democrats: 8 percent favorable, 82 percent unfavorable
Independents: 38 percent favorable, 50 percent unfavorable

Whites: 47.3 percent favorable, 46.3 percent unfavorable
African American: 14.3 percent favorable, 78.6 percent unfavorable
Hispanic: 37.3 percent favorable, 52.9% unfavorable
Asian: 66.7 percent, unfavorable 33.3, percent
Other: 52 percent favorable, 28 percent unfavorable

In short, he is a very polarizing figure with a large gender gap. His appeal is limited to white Republicans. If he is looking to run outside of the conservative state of Texas, he’ll need to show some appeal beyond the hard-core base; so far he hasn’t.

Conservatives like to say that the party needs someone articulate enough to express very conservative views. In Cruz, they have such a figure; the problem, it seems, is not a failure to communicate.

Part of the explanation for his numbers is, no doubt, his extremely conservative position on a range of issues, which makes him unacceptable outside the GOP. His stance on immigration leaves minorities cold. But his rating with women, I suggest, has as much to do with style as with substance. Cruz has perfected the art of disruption and ideological showmanship; he’s not seen as a problem solver. If Republicans want to narrow the gender gap, they’re going to have to talk about issues women care about (jobs, health care, education) in constructive ways.

In other words, he’s a highly concentrated form of the dilemma facing Republicans. The more he appeals to the base, the less appeal he has to an electoral majority. That’s a problem for him if he seeks the presidential nomination.