If Everyone Hates Ted Cruz, Why Is He Winning?

What's the one word that sums up the 2016 presidential election, from the disparity between the parties to the candidates themselves? Polarizing. And no one embodies this quite like Ted Cruz. While there is scant admiration for Cruz inside the GOP estabilishment, he was popular enough to beat Donald Trump in Iowa. It's clear that within the party, there is a schism between those who stand behind the junior senator from Texas and those who are alarmed by his ultraconservative platforms — or simply his personality. Cruz's recent victory, depsite how many people seem to vocally despise him, presents the question: who is voting for Cruz and why?

First let's look at why people don't like him. Ignoring the cheap-shot comparisons to a dreaded high school principal, used car salesman, or teen movie villain, Ted Cruz has given people substantive reasons to disapprove of him — or, at minimum, oppose his policies. But much of this derision focuses on how "unlikable" he is as a person. Former president George W. Bush told donors he just didn't "like the guy," and he's not the only GOP leader who has openly expressed disdain for Cruz. To the Republican leadership, Cruz is "opportunistic" and motivated by personal gain instead of party progress. His filibuster against the Affordable Care Act in 2013 was viewed as a vie for personal attention, rather than actually achieving anything for the party. Considering he read Green Eggs and Ham during the speech and the Affordable Care Act ultimately passed, you can say the filibuster was a spectacle for name recognition.

Public disdain for Cruz also stems less from his unwillingness to fall within party lines and more from his outlandish — at times possibly hateful — policies. He is seen as a walking paradox: he was born in Canada to an American mother and Cuban father, yet he wants to deport undocumented immigrants and deny amnesty to the thousands of Central Americans escaping crime in their home countries. Cruz decries Wall Street, but his wife served as a managing director at Goldman Sachs and he has accepted donations from the firm. Cruz denies climate change exists, but he has also accepted $1 million from the oil industry in campaign donations since 2011. Would he be as quick to deny climate change if he weren't being funded by the very companies who stand to benefit from its denial?

Then there's the fact that Cruz is so pugnacious, his former college roommate told The Daily Show that even if he "agreed with [Cruz] on every issue," he would still "hate [Cruz] only one percent less." Senator Burr from North Carolina reportedly went as far as to say he would vote for Bernie Sanders over Cruz at a recent campaign fundraidser. Yet it is all this in-party vitriol that fuels Cruz and ultimately makes him attractive to voters upset with the party leadership.

Republicans who love Cruz love him because he is an outsider — he is attacking the status quo and the so-called goons running the party. Much of the voting public, Democratic or Republican, sees Washington as a problem, and Cruz has a record of deploring the powers that be. Compared to Trump — who shares some of the same sentiments as Cruz on several issues — voters see Cruz as more presidential and surprisingly more reasonable. Republicans have endorsed the contrarian Cruz for the same reasons Democrats have backed Bernie Sanders: both call for a revolution in Washington. Whether his position as an anti-Washington politican will be enough to win the nomination remains to be seen. Winning Iowa may have been an anomaly since Cruz is fervently backed by evangelicals, and they turned out for him during the caucus. We'll find out more when his popularity is truly tested in the liberal-leaning New Hampshire primary next week.