Likability as a political asset for a candidate is a “you know it when you see it” quality.

It’s not the same thing as “approval” or “favorability” or whether you actually “like” the candidate. And it’s something that can’t be taught or learned.

I like Ted Cruz and I supported him during the primaries. But I have to admit there’s something about his style as a candidate that renders him not “likable” — his style was a little mechanical, he didn’t seem comfortable joking around on the campaign trail, or interacting spontaneously. I’d vote for him again, regardless of “likability.”

There are other candidate I don’t like who had likability. Obama, G.W. Bush, Clinton — they all had the “likability” factor regardless of whether you liked them. Call it the “who would you rather have a beer with test” — Obama or McCain/Romney? G.W. Bush or Gore/Kerry? Bubba or Dole/H.W. Bush? The person you want to have a beer with may not have the best character or policies, but hey, let’s grab a beer.

It’s not gender-based. I don’t like Nancy Pelosi, but I have to admit that she’s got the “likability” factor — she’s comfortable in her skin in front of cameras and on stage, she can be spontaneous, and she can crack a joke. She’s a ruthless politician (just ask her daughter), but it might be fun to have a beer with her. The most powerful female politician in the country is likable.

Same with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Mock her if you will for her polities and politics, but there’s a reason she’s a rising star with a big following unlike other male or female left-wingers.

Fast forward to Elizabeth Warren.

Warren’s not likable as a politician, whatever she may be like around friends and colleagues. She’s much like Hillary Clinton in that regard. The Warren-Hillary comparison spilled from a lot of lips when Warren announced. She’s not natural or comfortable. She’s prepackaged and wooden. She is who her political consultants want her to be.

I think Warren and her handlers understand this problem. That’s why on the evening she announced, she went on Instagram Live to drink beer.

Is there anything more manufactured? The political consultants want Warren to be the type of politician you want to have a beer with, so they have her drink beer. It wasn’t spontaneous or real, it proved more than anything that Warren doesn’t have that.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjDEPtS68CM

The left-wing of the Democrat party knows Warren has this likability problem, and that if she were the nominee, it would hurt her against Trump. So almost the moment Warren launched her campaign, there was an avalanche of articles complaining about people talking about Warren’s likability, and demanding it stop. It’s sexist and misogynistic, they say, because likability is only asked about female candidates.

An article in Politico lit the already simmering fire, Warren battles the ghosts of Hillary:

The anti-Elizabeth Warren narrative was written before the Massachusetts senator even announced she was exploring a presidential run.

She’s too divisive and too liberal, Washington Democrats have complained privately. Her DNA rollout was a disaster — and quite possibly a White House deal-breaker. She’s already falling in the polls, and — perhaps most stinging — shares too many of the attributes that sank Hillary Clinton.

In the year of the woman, it adds up to one unwelcome mat for the most prominent woman likely to be part of the 2020 field. But it also presents an unmistakable challenge: How does Warren avoid a Clinton redux — written off as too unlikable before her campaign gets off the ground?

https://twitter.com/politico/status/1080171818235953152

Here are some examples of the demand we stop talking about Warren’s likability and comparing her to Hillary.

Danielle Tcholakian, The Daily Beast, Talking About Elizabeth Warren’s Likability is a Way to Tell Women to Sit Down and Shut Up:

All conversations about the “likability” of a political candidate are sexist, and to claim otherwise is to out oneself as a sexist hiding behind the gauziest veil of cover.

Look no further than the discussion among nameless Washington Democrats about Senator Elizabeth Warren’s supposedly Hillary Clinton-style “unlikability,” as reported by Politico….

What do Warren and Clinton have in common? They are both notably hard-working older women. That’s about their only shared attribute. Clinton doesn’t even wear glasses.

So why, then, is Warren, according to Politico’s Washington Democrats, in danger of being “written off as too unlikable before her campaign gets off the ground”?

Because she’s a woman….

Yet nobody hand-wrings over the “likability” of men, in politics or otherwise. Men in politics do not have to be likable.

Moira Donegan, The Guardian, The issue with Elizabeth Warren isn’t likability. It’s sexism:

…. The fact is that Elizabeth Warren is likable. She speaks frankly and in moral terms, avoiding the cajoling sliminess of politicians such as the reptilian Texas senator Ted Cruz, or her probable Democratic primary opponent, New Jersey senator Cory Booker….

But none of this is what we mean when we ask whether or not Elizabeth Warren is “likable”, just as it was not what was meant when that tiresome question was asked about Clinton in the 2016 election cycle. Instead, the question of “likability” as it is applied to women candidates has become a kind of cipher through which pundits, strategists and ordinary Americans discuss our collective discomfort with women in power.

The claim that a woman candidate is not “likable” is a code for saying she defies our shared cultural understanding that power and authority are implicitly male, and that women who claim them are illegitimate, threatening or breaking the rules. If it were possible for Warren to be “likable”, under this rubric, it would only be if she were able to adhere to prevailing ideas of what is appropriate behavior for her sex – that is, if she were not seeking public office at all.

Ashton Pittman, NBC News, Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton and the sexist hypocrisy of the ‘likability’ media narrative. Here we go again.:

The same day Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced plans to seek the 2020 Democratic nomination, the sexist media narratives of elections gone by staged a comeback in the form of a Politico article highlighting concerns that Warren may share too many “attributes” with Hillary Clinton to be “likable.”

For 2016 supporters of Clinton — who has often been described as “disconnected,” “flawed,” “polarizing,” and “unlikable”— the adjectives Politico ascribed to Warren sounded awfully familiar….

There are many reasons why likability is a flawed metric for political candidates, men and women alike. But there is something particularly pernicious about the recent trend of evaluating women this way. Research has shown again and again that powerful women are held to different standards than men. …

Likability has long since outlived its speculative usefulness. And there is no clearer an example than Elizabeth Warren’s contradictory treatment in the press. Women do not become unlikable overnight. At this rate, the only likable female president would be one who didn’t want the job.

Warren jumped on the notion that her likability was a sexist topic:

https://twitter.com/ewarren/status/1080608079106981889

But by far the most high profile assault on questions of likability came from Dave Weigel and Annie Linsky in The Washington Post, Before you run against Trump, you have to run against Hillary (if you’re a woman):

Just hours after Elizabeth Warren announced her plans to run for president, a question began surfacing about a possible weakness. It wasn’t derived from opposition research into some facet of her life. It had nothing to do with her policy ideas.

It was the question often asked of female candidates and rarely of men: Is she “likab
le” enough to be president? Others put it another, potentially more devastating, way: Is she too much like Hillary Clinton to be the nominee? …

The website McSweeney’s covered the flap over Warren’s likability with a report whose headline, while satirical, made a pungent point: “I Don’t Hate Women Candidates — I Just Hated Hillary and Coincidentally I’m Starting to Hate Elizabeth Warren.”

For Democratic women running for president, it conjured what may be a preliminary contest in 2020: demonstrating they’re not Hillary Clinton — nothing like her! — before they earn the nod to take on President Trump.

James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal in a long Twitter thread took on specifically the Weigel/Linsky WaPo article and also more generally the notion that male candidates are not questioned as to likability.

https://twitter.com/jamestaranto/status/1081203293098074113d

https://twitter.com/jamestaranto/status/1081203293098074113

https://twitter.com/jamestaranto/status/1081203293098074113

https://twitter.com/jamestaranto/status/1081203293098074113

Taranto was not done. He went back and dug out old articles by Weigel questioning the likability of male candidates:

https://twitter.com/jamestaranto/status/1081303572904595461 https://twitter.com/jamestaranto/status/1081303572904595461

https://twitter.com/jamestaranto/status/1081303572904595461

https://twitter.com/jamestaranto/status/1081303572904595461

Let’s get back to Ted Cruz. His “likability” was repeatedly and obsessively a topic of discussion not only during the 2016 presidential primaries but also in his 2018 Senate contest. Last September, Jezebel ran an article, A Recent History of Ted Cruz Trying and Failing to Be Likable:

https://theslot.jezebel.com/a-recent-history-of-ted-cruz-trying-and-failing-to-be-l-1828936931

The notion that only female candidates are questioned about likability is a distortion and denial of history.

The real problem with questioning Elizabeth Warren’s likability is that she is not likable. If she were, liberals would be happy to talk about it.