Many conservatives are split on what the worst-case-scenario presidential nomination would look like: Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. They fear that either man will nearly ensure a victory for Democrats next November. But, between the two, who would Democrats rather face?
Generally, they're fine with the prospect of either, though they might have a bit more on their hands with the unpredictable Trump.
"[The Democrats] would be happy to run against either Cruz or Trump, because I think they think both of them are flawed candidates," said Matt Dickinson, professor of political science at Middlebury University. "Although, Trump is a real wild card."
Trump is difficult pigeonhole ideologically. Trump as a conservative convert is one of the main lines of attack employed by the GOP establishment that fears him. Ironically, it may be what Democrats should worry about, too.
In the past, Trump has expressed liberal views on things like abortion, property rights and health care. Even now, his stances on entitlement programs and medicine appear more closely aligned with the left than the right. That could swing some votes that Democrats would normally count on.
"You might think he would appeal to sort of those independent crossover voters," said Dickinson.
Not only does that impact voting in states with open primaries (meaning no party affiliation is required), but it could also mean more Democrats and independents jumping onto the Trump train in the general election.
That being said, the billionaire real estate magnate hasn't managed to win much of the general election crowd over. FiveThirtyEight's analysis of Gallup polling data reveals Trump is the least favorable candidate among voters. A December poll found most Americans think his language is offensive and that he is damaging the GOP brand.
As for Cruz, who is reportedly widely disliked on the right and on the left, he does better in head-to-head polls of hypothetical matchups than Trump, which could pose a potential issue for Democrats. According to RealClearPolitics, Cruz has a slight 0.6% edge over Clinton, while Trump trails the former secretary of state by 2.5%. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders beats both handily, ahead of Cruz by 3.3% and Trump by 5.3%.
But it's too early to tell. "Those polls aren't very reliable this early in the election," Dickinson said.
When it comes to the competition, Democrats are far more worried about other candidates. In November, The Guardianasked 176 superdelegates who they thought would be the biggest threat in the general election. The most common answer: Marco Rubio, followed by John Kasich and Jeb Bush. At that time, more responded they were concerned about Trump than Cruz.
So who do the Democrats really prefer if it comes down to bombastic billionaire vs. tea party Texan? The most popular answer is a predictable one in a contest where confidence counts: It doesn't matter.
"Would you rather have cake or ice cream for dessert?" said Ben Ray, communications director at American Bridge 21st Century, a liberal opposition research organization and super PAC based in Washington, D.C. He added, "Neither of these candidates are good for the Republican Party, the Republican establishment, Republican down-ballot candidates."
"It doesn't really matter who the GOP nominates -- they all want the same things: a return to the economic policies that were in place for the Great Recession, taking healthcare away from 19 million Americans, taking away the right to choose, cutting Medicare and Social Security, and kicking immigrant families out of the country, just to name a few," said Eric Walker, a spokesman for the Democratic Party.
Politicians, pundits and the media have essentially been predicting Trump's demise since the day he entered the race, and still, the Donald persists. And as he has thus far defied the odds in the GOP race, who's to say he won't be able to pull off the same in the general election?