The main reason Cruz will be competitive for the presidency is the fundamental reality of the 2016 election. With the backdrop of a disaffected electorate and a deeply polarizing president leaving office after two terms, any Republican nominee benefits from being the candidate of change. Democrats are also dealing with their own deepening intra-party divide—one that, if it weren’t for the headline-grabbing rise of Donald Trump, would be the defining theme of the 2016 elections . . .
Cruz brings some unheralded assets to the race, even as a weaker-than-usual Republican nominee.
First, he has a lot more opportunity to reorient his campaign message for a general election than Clinton has in refurbishing her run-down image. Cruz critics assume his mediocre favorability numbers will get even worse in a general election, but his public standing is bound to improve if Republicans rally around him as the nominee. And if Cruz is so power-hungry, as his critics claim, it’s easy to imagine him making the necessary compromises to win a presidential election. He’s never going to be likable, but he has opportunities to soften his rough edges . . .
Second, the polling points to a competitive general election between Clinton and Cruz. National polls show the race within 3 points (according to the RealClearPolitics average), with reputable state polls showing Cruz tied with her in blue-state Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Cruz consistently runs far more competitively against Clinton than Trump does. Her numbers have been consistently weak despite a fairly civil primary campaign in which Bernie Sanders has mostly stuck to issues, and avoided raising questions about her personal integrity.
Third, Cruz is the most likely Republican to hold together a fraying coalition at the Cleveland convention. He’s locked down the traditional conservative base, he has half-hearted backing from the establishment (thanks to Trump), and, not long ago, he was considered the clear second-choice candidate for Trump backers. Trump would divide the party, and nominating a “white knight” candidate would risk alienating the clear majority of GOP voters who have backed outsider, antiestablishment candidates this year. (Read more from “Why Cruz Could Beat Clinton” HERE)