It's often said that because Cruz was a national champ college debater, he'd cream Hillary in the presidential debates. Of course, there's no telling in advance how exactly that would go, but I think that's much too optimistic:
i) Isn't it evident by now that Cruz is overrated as a debater? I don't mean he's not a skillful debater. But just to judge by his primary debate performances, would you know that he was the national chap college debater? Put another way, if you knew that going in, wouldn't his performances be a letdown?
Again, I don't mean he can't be very good. But he's uneven. He has strong, memorable moments, but the same can be said for Trump, Christie, Rubio, Rand–and even Jeb.
Sometimes Cruz has bad moments. Sometimes he comes on strong, then fades.
Given his prior reputation, you'd expect him to utterly dominate the primary debates. But he hasn't. If he doesn't have that commanding performance in primary debates, why assume he would be spectacular in presidential debates?
ii) In all likelihood, most of the moderators for the presidential debate will be Hillary supporters. If so, they will lob her softball questions while they lob him hardball questions. So he will have to compensate for the bias of the moderators.
iii) In addition, there's the double standard. He will have to appear deferential to a woman. If he's perceived to be too hard on Hillary, many voters will think he's mean and disrespectful to a woman. That isn't fair, but politics isn't fair.
iv) Moreover, two people can watch the same candidate and have diametrically opposed impressions. Donald Trump is a perfect example.
What are people listening for? Are they even really listening to the content? Or is it more about the candidate's body language and how the viewer is predisposed to react to one candidate or another.
For instance, there are atheists who think Sam Harris beat William Lane Craig before either one even gave their opening statements. They take the position that it's simply impossible for Craig to win since Christianity is obviously false. Well, aren't there lots of voters who feel the same way about rightwing Republicans?
In addition, a speaker like Sam Harris can sound eminently reasonable even when he's spouting arrant nonsense. He has such a soothing, reassuring demeanor.
Now, David Wood has done a couple of exposes of Harris, but in a debate between Cruz and Hillary, how many viewers are going to take time to make a note of her statements, then compare that to the evidence? Many viewers don't know enough to realize when a candidate makes a false statement. In addition, there are partisan "fact checker" outfits that pretend to be impartial, but are liberal front organizations.