Sen. Ted Cruz will announce Monday that he will run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, becoming the first major official candidate in the race.
And as our own Philip Bump noted Sunday, despite Cruz's popularity with tea party conservatives, the Republican from Texas will start off in the 2016 polls as something of an also-ran -- averaging just 5.5 percent support.
This is at least somewhat understandable for two reasons: 1) Cruz isn't that well-known nationally to casual followers of politics, and 2) there are a lot of viable potential GOP candidates. This makes it difficult for any one of them to look very strong in early polls, relative to past years when fewer big-name candidates were splitting up the vote.
But Cruz's ballot-test numbers aren't the only ones that don't look great for him -- or perhaps more accurately, aren't as good as you might think. No, you also could make a pretty strong argument that Cruz's take-no-prisoners style (on display during the 2013 government shutdown) has alienated plenty of Republicans, too. And overall, his national brand is a little less sterling than you might think for a supposed conservative hero.
This has been shown in a few different polls. To wit:
1) An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released this month showed that 38 percent of Republicans said they couldn't see themselves backing Cruz, with 40 percent saying they could support him. The only other top-tier candidate with a worse ratio of potential supporters to non-starters was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (32 percent to 57 percent), whose issues with the GOP base are well-established.
And the number of Republicans who said they couldn't back Cruz was on par with former Florida governor Jeb Bush (42 percent), former Texas governor Rick Perry (40) and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky (40), all who have much clearer reasons for their detractors -- Bush because of his more moderate positions on immigration and Common Core, Perry because of his disastrous 2012 campaign, and Paul because of his libertarianism and non-interventionist foreign policy.
2) A January poll of the Iowa caucuses from Bloomberg News and the Des Moines Register showed that 20 percent of likely caucus-goers considered Cruz "too conservative," compared with 48 percent who said he was "about right" ideologically (others were not sure, and a few curious souls said he was too moderate). Only former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.) and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee had more people say they were too conservative.
3) A Bloomberg News/Saint Anselm College poll of likely New Hampshire primary voters showed Cruz viewed favorably by 43 percent and unfavorably by 16 percent. That seems like solid territory, but it's pretty much on par with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (41/12), Perry (52/25), Santorum (45/21) and Scott Walker (44/10) before Walker became a surprise early GOP front-runner.
The most curious question all of this raises is: Why? Cruz, while in office for just more than two years, has been a high-profile senator in Washington from Day One, including on some pretty high-profile issues such as the government shutdown and his 21-hour anti-Obamacare filibuster. And his conservative credentials are without compare in today's national GOP.
It's still very early, and Cruz will be introducing himself to many voters who aren't that familiar with him in the coming weeks and months. We've also argued before that his path to the GOP nomination is pretty clear and that he's the most underrated candidate in the field.
But it's certainly fair to ask, given his profile and promise, why he isn't starting out in a little better position with GOP voters.