Okay, I’ve been meaning to write about the Ted Cruz – David Dewhurst race for a bit but got sidetracked by the birth of my first grandchild! Pictures here – hey, I’m a grandpa now, I can do that stuff.
It was a shellacking. No doubt about that. But in answer to all of the snarky emails and stalking blogposts about my choice of candidates, no, I wouldn’t change a thing except to maybe work harder to convince folks to vote for Lt. Gov. Dewhurst. Sure, I lost a few “Facebook type friends” but I gained just as many real friends in the process. I came to genuinely like the Lt. Gov. as a person – he was 180 degrees different than the caricature he has been painted as. I wish him much luck in the future and if there is one piece of advice that I’d give him it would be, be yourself – you’re a fun guy to be around! And listen to Trisha, she has your best interests at heart.
Now, on to the Cruz victory. Ted Cruz won the old fashioned way – he earned it. No one, and I mean no one, worked harder than Ted did. Not only was he campaigning full time, he was working full time. I recall at one of our meetings, he had just come in from arguing a case before the Supreme Court, had a breakfast, then a luncheon with a business group, met with me for a couple of hours in a hotel lobby, then met with a Republican Women’s group, then met with a Tea Party group, then went to the office to review the day’s workload, and only then did he make it home for a few hours of sleep. And he kept this type of schedule for 19 months. His work ethic cannot be impugned and it is what ultimately drove him over the top in this race.
In reviewing the various pundits giving credit to the “Tea Party” for his win, it reminds me how lazy most journalists are. They sit around at various “journolist” type meetings and end up copying each other’s work with very little real insight. They assign the term “tea party” to a wide, diverse coalition of groups that Ted and his team built over a year. Certainly, some formal “tea party” groups participated in this victory. But there were also “liberty” groups, which are quite distinct from “tea party” groups but are often lumped in by lazy journalists. And then there was the evangelical right – Kelly Shackelford’s chairing the Cruz statewide leadership team opened the door wide for Cathie Adams, David Barton and the like to give Cruz that 50-42 advantage among Texas evangelicals.
And none of those groups poured money into the campaign quite like Heidi Cruz’s network of banking interests around the country. Go back and look at those early campaign finance reports – we aren’t talking Club for Growth, the Conservative Fund, or Freedom Works – most of Ted’s money came from out of state individual donors at high dollar fundraisers. He wouldn’t have gotten into 2012 without them.
But I think that the one group, if you have to single out one group, that put Ted into the spotlight and made him a legitimate candidate was the Texas Federation of Republican Women. You don’t get more establishment than the Texas RW groups – they have clout and put money behind their efforts. And Ted won them over in droves. He started winning them before Lt. Gov. Dewhurst was eligible to run. Recall his win in May 2011 at the Greater Houston Council of Republican Women – that was a VERY big deal at the time. My friend Karen Townsend, over at her blog Pondering Penguin, wrote about that one:
The popularity of Cruz with other Republican women is not a surprise to me. I’ve been to lots of Republican events sponsored by Republican women – particularly in the last three years – and, as a rule, Ted Cruz comes and doesn’t just stop by for a few minutes to be introduced as a guest. He stays and shakes hands and answers questions with anyone who comes up to speak with him. He works a room. His wife is a Republican woman and she and Ted are fond of saying they are raising the next generation of Republican women now with their two little daughters.
Karen was one of the “Cruz bloggers” that joined the campaign’s blogger outreach program designed by Vincent Harris. She also wrote about other RW straw poll victories by Ted: REPUBLICAN WOMEN OF KERR COUNTY STRAW POLL RESULTS and Ted Cruz Wins Greater Houston Council November Straw Poll. Karen is not only a blogger but she is the immediate past President of the Memorial West Republican Women’s Club.
Lest you still don’t believe me about the role of the RW clubs in the Cruz campaign, just visit his website and search for Republican Women. Note that in October 2011, he touted the endorsements of 115 RW officers. By January 2012, he had increased that number to over 200. I recall talking to a Dewhurst campaign staffer about the dozen or so ex-leaders of the RW clubs that had endorsed him and the staffer was lamenting the fact that they weren’t getting support. Which goes right back to Ted’s own hard work in going to any and every meeting that he was invited to, no matter how large or small.
The other group that supported Ted was the very establishment itself. Do you really get more establishment than having Ed Meese as your Chair of your National Leadership team? Or George Strake, former RPT chair endorsing your campaign?
I’m not saying any of this to disparage the “tea party” or any other group, except perhaps journalists. Ted Cruz is an establishment politician that found a way to form an old fashioned populist coalition of disparate voting groups. Remember the commercial that featured different activists from around the state? You had pro-gay marriage, pro-drug legalization, anti-gay marriage, anti-drugs, pro-choice, anti-abortion folks all in the same ad! Remarkable.
Of course you can’t leave out the “professional tea party” groups, like Freedom Works, Club for Growth, and Conservative Fund. I don’t know why anyone would label the first two as “tea party” but they do, so I will go along with it. Early in the campaign, Ted guaranteed me that he would win if he could raise five million dollars. If he raised that much, the Super PAC’s would provide enough money to put him over the top. Well, he raised the money, the Super PAC’s came through, and the rest is history.
You cannot forget campaign strategy and the difference between the two campaigns in regards to social media. I tweeted in January 2011 that the Cruz campaign had scored a coup by hiring Vincent Harris. As the campaign wore on, his hiring became ever more important as Ted dominated the social media playing field. It wasn’t even close. Obviously, you have to give some credit to Jason Johnson and John Drogin for their strategy and day to day discipline, but without Vincent’s work, Ted doesn’t win. Which is one reason his firm is growing like weeds in the rainy season on the Texas Gulf Coast! From his strategy of reaching out to bloggers to his Facebook and Twitter marketing skills to his belief in email fundraising, he made a huge difference in the campaign. And most of those people using his tools to promote Ted don’t even know his name. But insiders do, I assure you of that.
To show you the contrast between the two campaigns, consider their blogger outreach. The Cruz campaign believed in bloggers so much that they reached out, signed them up, then had periodic conference calls with Ted. He even announced his candidacy on a blogger conference call. The Dewhurst campaign had no outreach to bloggers – I had to use a dozen different contacts over a six to eight week period to get an interview with the Lt. Gov. and even then I was viewed suspiciously. It was a stark contrast and a win for the Cruz team.
Okay, I have to wrap this up, so I’ll go back to the beginning. Ted Cruz won this race by crafting a message that appealed to a broad coalition of disparate groups, hiring the right staff, and working his tail off in a disciplined effort. If lazy journalists want to say that the “tea party” won this for him, I can’t stop them but they aren’t even close to the truth.