Ted Cruz has a likability problem — and his embarrassing stereotypes of Texans aren't helping.
While Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke is talking about healthcare access and education, Sen. Ted Cruz is warning Texans that if O’Rourke wins in November, the Democrat will bring "tofu and silicon and dyed hair" to the state.
But in his awkward attempt to wage culture war, Cruz apparently forgot that silicon chip manufacturing has been a major industry in Texas for decades.
Missteps like this are becoming a bad habit for the ultra-conservative senator. Time and again, Cruz has played the role of what he apparently thinks is a “good Texan" — only to prove that he's hopelessly out of touch with his own voters.
And Republicans are getting worried that Cruz’s unpopularity could cost them a valuable Senate seat.
“There’s a very real possibility we will win a race for Senate in Florida and lose a race in Texas for Senate, OK?” Trump administration official Mick Mulvaney told GOP donors last week. “How likable is a candidate? That still counts.”
Having been raised in Houston, Cruz really should know better than to insult Texans by trivializing their politics, as he did with his "tofu and silicon and dyed hair" remark.
But Cruz, who was born in Canada and has spent the majority of his career in Washington, seems so desperate to appear Texan that he comes across as being insecure about his Texan identity.
This has led Cruz to engage in ridiculous stunts, like cooking bacon with an AR-15.
“In Texas, we cook bacon a little differently than most folks,” Cruz said in the cringeworthy 2015 video.
Cruz once smeared his own constituents as communists when they booed him for calling football players protesting racial injustice “rich, spoiled athletes.” He failed to respect the rich diversity of his own state, and was caught off guard when his Trump-style race-baiting backfired.
Cruz has also mocked his opponent for using the nickname "Beto," claiming that O'Rourke just used it to “fit in” — even though Cruz himself uses the nickname “Ted” instead of his given name of Rafael.
A recent New York Times article (written by a lifelong New Yorker) painted Cruz’s comments and actions as those of a man who “sees [Texas] clearly,” while O’Rourke simply “dreams” of an imaginary Texas.
In reality, Cruz seems to be the one dreaming of a Texas that no longer exists.
The state has changed dramatically since Cruz left to attend Princeton and Harvard. In 1980, the city he grew up in was 52 percent white. But today's Houston is just 25 percent white, and even more racially and ethnically diverse than New York City.
Whatever Cruz may think about the people he was elected to represent, they do not use AR-15s to cook bacon. They are not all opposed to peaceful protests by athletes. Many definitely have dyed hair. Some surely even eat tofu.
And no matter what they eat or wear, they all have much bigger concerns than how "Texan" their senator’s first name seems.
While Ted Cruz is making a fool of himself rambling about how soy is going to turn Texas into California, Beto O’Rourke is busy connecting with Texans on the issues that actually affect them.
O’Rourke’s comprehensive platform addresses issues from increased investment in rural infrastructure (600,000 residents are employed by the Texas agricultural industry) to immigration reform (11 million Texans are Hispanic).
Polls suggest that Cruz’s less authentic strategy is backfiring.
If Mulvaney is right, and likability counts more than the "R" next to a GOP candidate’s name, then Cruz really is in big trouble.
Ted Cruz may not understand Texans, but the data shows Texans have come to understand him — and that they don't like what they've learned.
That is a problem no amount of bacon-cooking or tofu-bashing can fix.