Originally published in Red Racing Horses.
The Thursday before last I missed my first presidential debate of the season. Instead of following the liveblog here at RRH, I was in Clear Lake, Texas (don't tell me it is not really a city, Houston!) for a senatorial forum hosted by the local tea party.
format was interesting; audience members were given a scorecard to rate
the answers of each candidate to a predetermined set of questions
(candidates could not hear each other's answers). However, the more
intriguing aspect of this event took place after the forum. All of the
candidates exited the auditorium and met with the audience to shake
hands and answer individual questions. A couple of minor candidates
absorbed significant attention, with the booming Glenn Addison working a
large crowd while he was there and Lela Pittenger turning heads with
some passion of her own. However, my attention was focused on Ted Cruz.
of the candidates at the event stuck to the same tune- defend the
Constitution, support the free market, and other conservative talking
points. Cruz' approach after the event was a bit different: in order to
convince attendees to support him, he detailed his campaign strategy.
strategy hinges upon the idea of the pre-primary. Before anybody ever
votes in a given primary, candidates jockey for the strongest position
amongst themselves. In Texas, the pre-primary is a competition to
consolidate support as the most conservative candidate. This jockeying
most commonly manifests itself in endorsements and fundraising. Whoever
consolidates the money and activists behind their campaign has 'won' the
Early in the race a variety of candidates jumped in:
Railroad Commissioners Michael Williams and Elizabeth Ames Jones;
former Secretary of State Roger Williams; Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert; and
Solicitor General Ted Cruz. Of these, Roger Williams and Leppert had
reputations as establishment and moderate candidates, respectively. This
left Michael Williams, Jones and Cruz to compete for the affections of
the conservative primary electorate.
Cruz claims to have won this
pre-primary. Looking at the field, this seems to be a true statement.
Both Williamses have dropped down to different congressional races, and
Jones has only raised a few hundred thousand dollars. In contrast, Cruz
repeatedly noted his endorsements from Senators Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Pat
Toomey, and most importantly Jim DeMint. He has also rounded up the
support of the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, two of the more
important groups to watch for in a GOP primary. His support is also
diverse within the universe of the Texas GOP- one recent email touted
the support of both Republican Liberty Caucus national Chairman Dave
Nalle and President of the Family Research Council Tony Perkins. Cruz
went to great lengths to emphasize himself as the only candidate who can
gather the support to take on Dewhurst in the primary.
Dewhurst is the 800 lb elephant in the room. The Lieutenant Governor has
held statewide office since 1998, giving him strong name recognition in
the primary. More importantly, Dewhurst is independently wealthy and
can self-fund advertising in the numerous media markets of Texas. His
major downside is a reputation as an establishment Republican; he once
declared himself to be a "George Bush Republican" and has been accused of derailing legislation
pushed by conservative standard bearer and state Senator Dan Patrick.
Cruz's concern is that Dewhurst has the millions it takes to run
advertising and frame his own record in the most positive manner
possible. Now is the time to take the initiative from the Lieutenant
Governor- I was informed by organizers of the forum that Dewhurst is not
yet ready to do public events as a candidate.
Obviously Cruz has to fundraise to compete. He already had two strong financial quarters, raising $1 million in the first and $800,000 in the second.
Cruz has set a goal of raising $5-10 million, which he claims the
campaign is on track to meet. However, he is not the only candidate with
Other than Dewhurst and Cruz, one other
candidate has the resources to compete statewide: former Dallas Mayor
Tom Leppert. He has $3.4 million cash on hand, with solid fundraising in both quarters
bolstered by over $2 million in personal loans. However, Cruz plans to
use Leppert to absorb moderate voters from Dewhurst, claiming his record
in Dallas is riddled with less than conservative policies.
is seeking to make the race a referendum on records. He is quick to
point out his website does not have a traditional 'issues' page;
instead, he has a tab labeled 'proven record'
which details actions he has taken on various issues as Solicitor
General. With a booming presentation on the stump and a solid record
before the courts, Cruz is aiming to set himself apart from the pack.
It may be working; Ted Cruz won the straw poll after the event.