The night that Ted Cruz won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, the Democrats’ nominee characterized Cruz as an inexperienced man of mystery.
In his July 31, 2012, statement, former state Rep. Paul Sadler, who also won a runoff that night, said: "Because of low turnout and outside money, a loud angry mob inside the Republican Party... nominated Ted Cruz who is untested, untried and unknown to the vast majority of Texans."
Cruz, an attorney and the state’s former solicitor general, is making his first run for office. Voters can judge how tested and tried he is.
Is it accurate to say he's widely unknown?
By telephone, Sadler said he was trying to underscore Cruz’s lack of a legislative voting record and his belief that "we don’t know how he’ll react in the legislative process." Cruz, he said, is unknown in that way.
"If that’s not said properly, I’ll concede that," Sadler said.
An alternative read of Sadler’s statement is that he was saying that Cruz is unknown, in all ways, to most Texans.
According to poll results, in contrast, Cruz’s name recognition grew in the months leading to his runoff against the previously front-running hopeful, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. In the run-up, those candidates and outside groups spent more than $35 million, according to a pre-runoff Texas Tribune analysis posted July 30, 2012.
Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning North Carolina firm, and the University of Texas/Texas Tribune each conducted relevant polls of voters.
In an April 2012 poll of 591 Texas voters, most of them Republican, Cruz had 41 percent name recognition, Public Policy Polling spokesman Tom Jensen told us by email.
Poll respondents were asked if they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Cruz. Some 19 percent said favorable, 22 percent said unfavorable and 59 percent had no opinion. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.
So, a majority of voters may have then been unaware of Cruz, though a poll taken the next month, before Cruz finished second to Dewhurst in the May 29, 2012, primary, suggests Cruz’s profile was on the rise.
In the May 2012 UT/Texas Tribune poll of 800 randomly selected registered voters, each respondent was asked "whether you have a very favorable, somewhat favorable, neither favorable nor unfavorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable opinion of Ted Cruz." Some 58 percent of the respondents, who were not just Republicans, had an opinion, while 42 percent said they did not know enough to have an opinion. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. (In the poll, 36 percent of respondents had an opinion of Sadler, 63 percent said they did not know enough about him to have one.)
UT professor Daron Shaw, who helped conduct the poll, told us by email that he is unaware of empirical evidence supporting Sadler’s claim.
Cruz became especially well known among active Republicans, later polls indicate.
An Ohio pollster, Fritz Wenzel, polled 600 likely Texas Republican runoff voters on behalf of Citizens United, a group backing Cruz. Wenzel told us by telephone that 93 percent of the respondents in the July 2012 poll had an opinion of Cruz, while 7 percent did not know enough to have one. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.98 percentage points.
Wenzel said it makes sense that likely GOP runoff voters are the most likely to know Cruz. "The people least likely to know him are Democratic and independent voters, and we did not sample them," he said.
Still, Wenzel called Sadler’s claim "badly overblown. (Cruz) is clearly known to most Republican voters and that is a universe that comprises at least close to, if not more than, half the Texas electorate. Republicans have not lost a statewide race since 1994.
Also in July, Public Policy Polling polled 665 likely Republican runoff voters; 85 percent had an opinion of Cruz with 53 percent favorable, 32 percent unfavorable. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
Broadly, PPP spokesman Jensen said, he imagines the current share of Texans familiar with Cruz falls between 41 and 85 percent -- "in the 60s," he said, "but I don’t know for sure."
Sadler said Cruz is unknown to the vast majority of Texans. He told us this was a reference to Cruz’s lack of a legislative record, not his name recognition.
We’ll grant that intention, though Sadler’s claim did not read that way to us. The facts are that Cruz is widely known among Republican voters and may be known by around 60 percent of all voters.
This claim has an element of truth -- Cruz’s lack of a legislative record. We rate the statement Mostly False.