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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Megyn Kelly opened her interview with Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) on the first episode of her new Fox News show The Kelly File by asking: “What’s it like to be the most hated man in America?”

The good news for Republicans is that Cruz probably isn’t the “most hated man” in the country, and that’s only because most of the country has no idea who he is.

In a new Associated Press-GfK survey, only half the country knew the junior senator well enough to have an opinion. Of those who did, 16 percent viewed him favorably and double that, 32 percent, had an unfavorable view. Poll averages show most Americans have no opinion of Cruz, while those who do mostly view him unfavorably. His favorable rating has dropped sharply since his 21-hour fake filibuster.

In Virginia, the state with one competitive gubernatorial race in 2013 and a state highly affected by the government shutdown, 46 percent of voters had an unfavorable view of Cruz. Even in a state that borders on Washington D.C., 29 percent didn’t have an opinion about the senator, while only 26 percent had a favorable view. The Republican nominee for governor, Ken Cuccinelli, appeared over the weekend with Cruz. But the candidate has been forced to come out against the shutdown as his poll numbers get worse and worse.

Yes, Ted Cruz is already costing Republicans in a competitive race.

Still, the Tea Party hero is doing his best to make sure America knows who he is with his summer-long “Defund Obamacare” campaign. Before that he was best known for insinuating that then-nominee for Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel may have ties to Iran or North Korea.

He was lesser known for the instrumental role he played in joining a handful of Republican senators in halting a conference committee that would have turned Congress back to the “regular order” GOP leaders claimed they wanted. And the fact that Cruz could possibly end the career of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-VA) by endorsing the leader’s Tea Party primary opponent has helped paralyze the Senate and McConnell, who was a key broker in the deal that ended the “fiscal cliff” crisis.

Cruz was either chosen or chose himself to be the face of a well-funded movement that has been plotting for months to shut down the government over the Affordable Care Act. Of course, that’s not how they would frame what they were doing. They blame the president for not being willing to give up his signature legislative achievement that he campaigned on as he was re-elected.

This uncompromising attitude was rejected by GOP leaders earlier this year, knowing that it would lead to a shutdown. But Cruz and his colleagues won because while America had no interest in a shutdown, the Tea Party loves it — and the Tea Party, along with the evangelicals who love them, now makes up the majority of the party. While 48 percent of Republicans want GOP leaders to do more to reach out to the president, only 15 percent of Tea Partiers agree, preferring that the party stand firm in the shutdown, according to the AP-GfK survey.

Polls show Republicans are getting the most blame for the shutdown Cruz wanted. Independents and moderates reject hardline approaches and want compromise.

Republicans in Congress cannot seem to agree on what they want in exchange for reopening the government. Yet Ted Cruz and his staff are singularly focused. They criticized Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Wednesday for publishing an op-ed about the shutdown that didn’t mention Obamacare.

Democratic allies are now running ads targeting Republicans in swing districts over the shutdown. They show Ted Cruz’s face but not his name, because they’re aware that most of the public doesn’t know it.

And if Republicans are smart, they’ll keep it that way.

Photo: Screenshot via The Kelly File

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.