Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz Texas is known to be despised by his Senate colleagues as well as by the media. In the eyes of many commentators -- such as Paul Krugman and Gail Collins of The New York Times -- Cruz would be the worse option, by far.
The common reasons for Cruz being considered worse than Trump typically follow from Cruz's religious zeal when juxtaposed against Trump's apparent lack of serious belief, and is especially showcased by the remarkably tolerant comments made by Trump about the right of transgender citizens to use the restroom of their choosing.
Cruz has become positively obsessed with Trump's comments, as it gave him a new way to connect with socially conservative voters.
"Even if Donald Trump dresses up as Hillary Clinton, he shouldn’t be using the girls’ restroom," the candidate loves to repeat now.
The odiousness of Sen. Cruz's comments has led many observers into the trap of believing Trump would be a far better candidate, and perhaps even president, than a close-minded ideologue like Cruz. This is a mistake: Trump is every bit as bad as Cruz is, and unlike Cruz, Trump has a zealous army of aggrieved supporters who respond soundly whenever the billionaire candidate sounds a dog whistle.
Trump's philosophy is based on what appears to be a zero-sum view of the world, in which countries that are prospering are doing so at the expense of the United States. He could be forgiven for this -- let's face it, even self-proclaimed "centrist" politicians can have kooky ideas about the U.S.'s place in the world -- if he wasn't actively stoking the fierce resentment of his supporters against perceived "others" like Mexican citizens and Muslims who immigrate to the United States. As Matt Taibbi has said, Trump's candidacy is like the Red Scare 2.0, except dumber and more racist.
It would be inaccurate to say that Cruz is not trying to capitalize on the same voter sentiments as Trump, but his utter failure to do so on the scale that Trump has actually makes him a less dangerous candidate to actually sit in the Oval Office, despite his fiercely right-wing ideology.
And consequently, as Cruz would be a less dangerous pick than Trump ultimately would be, his chances against Hillary Clinton in a general election have shown to be higher than Trump's. RCP polling averages from recent weeks showing Clinton with a 9-point lead over Trump in the general election, but they also showed her with only a 3-point lead should the candidate be Cruz, according to The Washington Post.
Cruz, again, is a fierce ideologue. What he would attempt to do while in the White House is already known to all who have listened to him speak on the issues: flattening of the tax rate to favor businesses, spending more on the military, cutting government departments and privatizing large portions of the public sector.
Trump may attempt to do the same exact thing, but who really knows? The candidate is a black box whose true opinions seem to be unknown to all but himself; this is the same candidate who once called for a 14.25 percent "wealth tax" on the richest Americans to help pay off the U.S. debt and who has spoken fondly of universal health care systems before -- as his opponent, Cruz, enjoys pointing out. But Trump has also tried to tack far to the right and has taken the same positions as Cruz on a number of occasions. The truth is that nobody knows what he will do.
And that's what ultimately makes him the more dangerous candidate. A man whose real opinions are not known but who has an army of incredibly angry and motivated followers is more dangerous than a religious ideologue whose opinions are known and who is known to be unpopular.