By Tom Quiner

There is a huge problem with Donald Trump and Ted Cruz: independent voters hate them.

And without a majority of independent votes, Republicans lose.

According to pollsters, YouGov, Trump’s unfavorable ratings are the worst of all the Republican candidates.

• 51% of independent voters said they would NEVER vote for him.

• 58% of self-identified moderate voters said they would NEVER vote for him.

For Cruz, the numbers are only marginally not as bad:

• 41% of independent voters said they would NEVER vote for him.

• 47% of self-identified moderate voters said they would NEVER vote for him.

Here’s the problem: there aren’t enough conservative voters for Republicans to win.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal this morning, David Brady, a political scientist from Stanford University spelled it out:

The arithmetic is pretty simple: 41% of voters in the 2012 presidential election described themselves as moderates, and 29% as independents. Almost all Republicans (93%) and self-described conservatives (82%) voted for Mitt Romney, but that wasn’t enough. Even if Mr. Romney had won every Republican or conservative voter, it still wouldn’t have been enough.

Because there are roughly 5% more Democrats than Republicans, the GOP needs a solid majority of independents to win a national election. In 2012 Mitt Romney outpolled Barack Obama among independents, 50% to 45%. But that didn’t take him across the electoral college finish line.

On the other hand, Marco Rubio fares much better with moderate and independent voters than Trump and Cruz. Only 32% of independents said they would never vote for him.

If Republicans want to win, he’s their guy.

If they want to lose, they should go with Trump or Cruz.



  1. Shawn Pavlik on January 11, 2016 at 11:36 pm

    Sure let’s put up another moderate. It worked so well in 96 and 08, and in 2012. The last time we really won an election was when we “raised a banner of no pale pastels but of bold colors”, in 1980 and 84. I can’t believe you wrote this piece, Tom. You’re better than this. Be a principled conservative, and support the only true conservative who has a shot of getting the nomination AND winning the election.

    When people get to know Cruz in the debates with Hillary, they will like him. And they will vote for him, rather than the liar. Cruz knows how to debate (actually was a national debate champion, and argued in front of the SCOTUS as solicitor general for Texas). He will destroy Clinton in the debates.

    Polls at this point mean very little. The only poll that matters is the one on February 1, when Cruz will win the Iowa Caucus, and then go to NH and place in the top 3. This will set him up to win the nomination, and the presidency.

    If we nominate another milquetoast moderate Republican, we might as well send Hillary the ordering book for the white house china, because she’ll be residing there (again) probably for 8 years. Incumbents are hard to beat.

    • quinersdiner on January 12, 2016 at 4:45 pm

      Shawn, I was anticipating your response. I will try to write a response in a new blogpost.

  2. Nathan on January 12, 2016 at 7:40 am

    “For decades, the electoral philosophy of major American political parties has been that he or she who wins the moderates wins the elections. And to a certain extent, that’s been true: from 1972 to 2012, only three presidential elections have seen a candidate win independents according to exit polls but lose the White House (Gerald Ford won 54% of independents in 1976 but lost to Jimmy Carter, John Kerry won independents 49% to 48% in 2004 but lost to George W. Bush, and Barack Obama lost independents 50% to 45% but won re-election).”

    • Shawn Pavlik on January 12, 2016 at 10:59 pm

      But you can win the independents without being a moderate. For example, Reagan in 1980, and in 1984. He ran a conservative campaign and ushered in modern day conservatism. and as we’ve seen, winning the independents does not win you the election necessarily. Given that 2 out of the last 3 elections were won by the candidate who did NOT win the independent vote. You have to turn out your base. Excite them. Show you will stand up for conservative principles. That is the way to the white house, especially after this disaster of a president.

  3. Lori on January 12, 2016 at 8:34 am

    This is what we need to know. We need to work together to get a Republican in the White House. Some people may like Trump- may like some of his ideas- but he is NOT electable. Period. And we know who will be president if we can’t make this happen.

  4. Shawn Pavlik on January 12, 2016 at 9:16 am

    Tom, did you see this story?

    So, Carson’s people in the NH Super PAC decided Carson had no chance, and the best conservative to support is TED CRUZ. Get on board the Ted Cruz support train!

    A direct quote from these people: “We hold Dr. Carson in the highest regard,” Sickles said. “This is a man we revere, but we think it is important that our party nominate a conservative and get behind a single conservative who can win, and we strongly believe that candidate is Ted Cruz.”

  5. Shawn Pavlik on January 12, 2016 at 11:40 am

    Cruz endorsements so far include:
    Bob Vanderplaats
    Steve King
    Brent Bozell
    James Dobson
    Morton Blackwell
    Gun Owners of America
    About 3 dozen leaders of influential Jewish organizations
    National Organization for Marriage
    Shane Vandehart
    etc. this is just a partial list.

    Strong, conservative voices in America…I just don’t trust Rubio, especially on issues of immigration.

  6. Shawn Pavlik on January 13, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Tom –

    We both know that polls mean very little, but what we CAN take from them at this point is that Cruz absolutely could beat Hillary. I like the Real Clear Politics polls, as they usually use major, non-biased polls from around the country and average the results. Recent polls have Cruz over Clinton by anywhere from 2 to 7 points.

    Would that make you feel better about voting for Cruz? As I said earlier, as people get to know Cruz on the campaign trail, they see that he is a strong conservative voice and often choose to follow him. Less than 10% undecided in some of those polls.

    Admittedly, Rubio does similarly well.

    I think we both agree Trump would NOT be a good choice. And polls bear that out as well.

  7. Alan Eoriatti on January 13, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    This may be one of the first times ever I disagree with you. A vote for Trump or Cruz is NOT a vote for Hillary. That is weak evidence based on numbers that no longer apply. What do Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney all have in common? You know the answer to that. Our only winner in recent Presidential elections was George W. Bush and he disappointed the conservatives with his liberal policies. George W. Bush is why we have Obama. He never stood up for himself and let the liberals run all over him. We need someone to stand and fight and take the fight to the liberals. Cruz and Trump are doing well and the polls because they are doing that.

    It is estimated that 4 million conservatives sat out the last election with Romney. I believe that number will multiple if we nominate a moderate. Cruz could win in a landslide if he goes up against Hillary or Sanders.

    Trump on the other hand is an unknown. He has already defied the odds and I don’t think you or I have any real idea what will happen if he wins the nomination. I have read where he is getting a large number of Reagan democrats. I think all conventional wisdom goes out the window with this guy.

    For the record I may still vote for Rubio on Feb. 1st. I don’t believe he is anywhere close to a moderate like Dole, McCain, both Bushes, and Romney. I like him a lot and think he would be a great leader for the conservative movement. He will need to fight the insider label, though. I also think Cruz and others would be great.

    Bottom line- a vote for Cruz or Trump is NOT a vote for Hillary.

    • quinersdiner on January 13, 2016 at 9:45 pm

      Thanks for some great input. If you read tonight’s blogpost, I make the case for Rubio’s conservative record. Rubio is certainly no moderate like Dole, McCain, Bush, or Romney. That is a label used by Cruz as a campaign tactic to hurt Rubio in the polls. I do you hope that you are right, and that I am wrong, since Trump and Cruz are ahead in the polls. But I’ll stand by my assessment. Cruz is slick, and independents don’t like slick.

      • Shawn Pavlik on January 14, 2016 at 7:01 am

        I do like Rubio except for his actions with the Gang of 8. That makes me not quite trust him to stand up for conservative principles. Cruz, on the other hand, is unflinchingly conservative, and we absolutely can trust him on immigration.

        Rubio seems to be the “pragmatic” choice, but pragmatim is what got us two terms of Obama. Had we gone with Gingrich in 2008 or Huckabee, or had we gone with Santorum in 2012, I think we may have had better luck, as McCain and Romney did not excite the conservative base, and they stayed home on election day. I think Rubio’s stance on immigration could be enough to make some conservatives stay home. I KNOW Cruz will energize the conservative base. I also think you mischaracterize how “unpopular’ Cruz is and how popular Rubio is. It’s not like Rubio is knocking “favorability” out of the park:

        They have similar -2 point gaps in favorability.

        • quinersdiner on January 14, 2016 at 8:44 am

          Needless to say, Shawn, I respect your opinion. If Cruz were to get the nomination, I would enthusiastically support him. We differ on our assessment of him and Rubio in 3 ways: 1. I think the whole ‘Gang of 8’ effort has been mischaracterized and distorted (not by you, but by Rubio’s opponents); 2. Rubio is certainly not a “pragmatic” choice. He is a bonafide conservative as his voting record shows; 3. Regarding polls, at this stage, unfavorability ratings are far more significant that favorability ratings. Republicans can win 100% of the Republican vote and still lose the election. They have to sway some Independents. But far too many “I’s” have already made it clear they wouldn’t consider voting for Cruz no matter what. Thanks for writing. I do appreciate your input.

  8. […] blogpost, “A vote for Trump or Cruz is a vote for Hillary,” generated impassioned feedback from loyal Quiner’s Diner readers like this […]

  9. oarubio on January 14, 2016 at 1:15 am

    For all of his greatness, I’m not sure even Reagan could win now with accelerating disregard for timeless values (and I don’t have to list them). The U.S. and the world have changed since the 1980’s and definitely not for the better. Fairness and personal accountability are becoming extinct. Understanding of history and economics are woefully lacking. The net result is too many gullible voters.

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