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September 27, 2013 3:17 PM Bray-y-y-ve New World

By Ed Kilgore

No sooner had I posted the previous item about Ted Cruz presuming to tell House Republicans to buck John Boehner’s leadership on the fiscal tangle than I ran across this rather startling report from Public Policy Polling, based on its semi-regular surveying of GOP primary voters (i.e., “the base”):

PPP’s newest national poll finds Ted Cruz is now the top choice of Republican primary voters to be their candidate for President in 2016. He leads the way with 20% to 17% for Rand Paul, 14% for Chris Christie, 11% for Jeb Bush, 10% each for Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan, 4% for Bobby Jindal, and 3% each for Rick Santorum and Scott Walker.
Cruz has gained 8 points since our last national 2016 poll in July while everyone else has more or less stayed in place. He’s made himself the face of a government shutdown over Obamacare, and the Republican base supports that by a 64/20 margin. It’s not surprising that Republicans identifying as ‘very conservative’ support a shutdown 75/10, but even the moderate wing of the party supports it by a 46/36 margin.

Okay, these are too-early-to-matter numbers about a hypothetical presidential race, so they can be ignored to some extent. But in terms of Ted Cruz’s current status as party leader, check this out:

Our numbers also suggest that Cruz is now viewed more broadly as the leader of the Republican Party. When asked whether they trust Cruz or GOP leader Mitch McConnell more, Cruz wins out 49/13. When it comes to who’s more trusted between Cruz and Speaker John Boehner, Cruz has a 51/20 advantage. And when it comes to Cruz and 2008 GOP nominee and Senate colleague John McCain, Cruz wins out 52/31. He now has more credibility with the GOP base than the folks who have been leading the party for years.

Mercifully for Mitt Romney, PPP didn’t throw the name of the 2012 presidential nominee into the mix.

But still: no wonder Cruz is throwing his weight around in Washington and defying both McConnell and Boehner. He’s got the numbers to get away with it.

Since Cruz is already widely regarded in Washington as a first-rate jackass, you have to wonder how puffed up he’s going to get if every time he brays, “the base” cheers wildly.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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