HOUSTON, Texas — About six or seven hundred hardcore conservatives gathered outside the new Houston campaign headquarters for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) last Tuesday, an event at which he showed off his presidential prospects as the first declared candidate for 2016.
Cruz, the true Washington outsider, has had a hugely successful first two weeks as the first declared candidate for the White House—raising millions of dollars, hiring key staff, and building a formidable operation, all while sticking true to his aggressive conservatism. Cruz has shaken up Washington, the political class, and the media establishment by essentially proving since his announcement that contrary to inside-the-beltway elitist belief, he is in fact a very viable candidate for president of the United States.
“I think we are certainly trying to do everything possible to energize and mobilize the grassroots, to energize and mobilize millions of courageous conservatives,” Cruz said in an interview with Breitbart News.
“The greatest trick the left has ever played is to convince the world that America doesn’t share our values,” Cruz added. “America remains a fundamentally center-right country with Judeo-Christian values. And these are common sense principles that America was built upon, and just like in 1980 it took millions of men and women across this country to come together and become the Reagan Revolution. Likewise, today, it will take a similar army of courageous conservatives to result in the same sort of fundamental change we saw in 1980. Our nation is in crisis and the Washington elites cannot solve this problem. It can only come from the American people. That is where our focus and energy is directed, and I’m incredibly encouraged by the enthusiasm we’re seeing right now.”
The Wall Street Journal reported Cruz’s team has already raised about $4 million in its first two weeks—an extraordinarily impressive level of fundraising for the early stages of a presidential campaign. Part of the reason why that’s the case, Cruz and his top team members like campaign manager Jeff Roe told Breitbart News, is because it’s a campaign that’s going to break all the rules that White House hopefuls normally follow—in true outsider, Cruz fashion.
First off, Roe noted, Cruz waited until the end of a Federal Election Commission (FEC) fundraising quarter to announce he was running—meaning he had a lot less time to pull in big bucks to show off his viability as a candidate.
“The last person who announced the same time [in a quarter] that we announced was Tim Pawlenty [in 2012]. Pawlenty raised $160,000 in the first nine days of his presidential campaign. We did that within about the first 9 minutes of his speech,” Roe said.
That theme—break all the rules—permeates Cruz’s campaign and team.
“We view this race completely differently than most do,” Roe said. “If it’s a rule that’s in place, we want to break it.”
In addition, Cruz’s team is aiming to hire key grassroots activists in major states around the country to build a groundswell of support for his presidential campaign, rather than bring in political insiders. That way, in each key state, Cruz has devoted and loyal supporters fighting for him and his message, rather than just for a paycheck.
“What we are doing is we are hiring activists in these states,” Roe said. “We have activists who believe in the campaign who people in these local communities trust.”
Walking around the Cruz headquarters, Cruz aide Rick Tyler—who worked for Newt Gingrich’s 2012 campaign and is a top-notch conservative campaign communications staffer—showed reporters the new digs. The L-shaped campaign office in Houston’s Greenway Plaza overlooks the city of Houston with full floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Cruz’s fundraising staff takes up a wing of the back corner. Communications staff like Tyler, Jason Miller of Jamestown Associates, Brian Phillips who just joined the team from the office of Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), former Rick Perry press secretary Catherine Frazier, and social media guru Josh Perry take up another corner—separated from the fundraisers by a kitchen area and Sen. Cruz’s personal office. The senator’s office is plain, bare-bones, decorated with just a chair, desk, phone, and a whiteboard with some scribbled notes.
Walking in the front door of the spacious campaign headquarters, however, one will immediately see—after getting past the front desk, a conference room, and a kids playroom off to the left—that about a third of the campaign office is devoted entirely to data staff. The cubicle clusters for Cruz’s technology army look like those at a sophisticated and well-funded startup company—and go on for about 25 yards into the building before the communications staff desks. Right now, Roe said Cruz’s headquarters employs about 30 full time employees—10 of which are tech workers—and he expects that number to grow as the campaign heats up.
“The last thing I would say is we are building a campaign not with data as a resource, but with data as the central point of our decision making,” Roe said, noting that Team Cruz isn’t going about data the way normal campaigns do.
“We’re baking data into everything we do, into how we are going to engage each individual donor and voter in the process to see how they’re going to be able to get the message of our campaign,” Roe said.
Roe noted that the campaign is taking messages of what voters want to hear about right to their doorsteps, using issue ID to figure out what it is they care about most then convincing them that Cruz has the best solution to their needs. It’s very business-like, almost like a sales pitch, aimed at engaging voters to find a way to sell them on how Cruz is the best product in the 2016 field. They are working to define the largely-undefined Cruz to primary and general election voters in a way that they expect will help them see that Cruz is the best available decision they can make. Essentially, if someone wants to discuss Obamacare instead of tax cuts, Roe said, then Cruz’s team will talk to them about Obamacare. That doesn’t mean Cruz isn’t strong on tax cuts, too, but talking to voters about what they are interested in hearing about makes convincing them to eventually vote for him when the time comes much easier.
“So the engagement of those voters is how we’re approaching this—not just talking at them with what we want to say, but communicate with them about what they want to talk about,” Roe said.
In groups of 30 or so at the campaign headquarters, Cruz staff shuffled his most adoring fans in and out of the offices of the effort they hope to make history with in a few short months to get a brief tour and take photographs with the senator. After everyone made it in, Cruz, his wife Heidi, and father Rafael took to a makeshift podium to give a speech one week from when he announced his presidential campaign—and were welcomed with a hero’s homecoming as the crowd went wild. Cruz’s biggest obstacle is going to be showing the GOP base that he can win the White House if they unite to get him the Republican nomination. And like he did by showing off the powerful infrastructure he and his team have built here in Houston to reporters and supporters alike, in his remarks outside Cruz and his wife and father cut right through the core of the false reality that’s been presented to Americans about his chances of winning.
“With the power of ‘We The People’ we will see Ted Cruz as the next president of the United States of America,” Rafael Cruz said. “Ted and his wife and his mother and myself, we appreciate greatly your support and I’ll tell you something: You will not be disappointed. He knows who he works for and he works for ‘We The People’ and in spite of the establishment in both parties it is ‘We The People’ who will put him in the White House so that working men and women across America will have a voice in Washington, D.C.”
Rafael Cruz, perhaps the senator’s best surrogate, spoke for another seven minutes before Ted Cruz’s wife came on stage.
“Thank you for the amazing welcome home,” Heidi Cruz said as she took the podium with the senator, to thunderous applause. “We’ve had a fabulous launch week and there’s nothing better than being home and we’re so grateful for your commitment, your time and your treasure for taking on this great cause—what is really a movement—that is not about us. It’s about changing our country. There’s nothing that makes me prouder than to join forces with all of you—an incredible team. I’ll tell you, being on the road last week with Ted, I was reminded like I was so many times over the past 15 years just how good this guy is.”
The crowd roared again.
“Why is he so good?” Heidi asked. “It comes down to basic things like how he really cares. He really believes and together we’re so proud to stand with you.”
Heidi stepped aside, handed the clip-on mic back to her husband, and the senator stood up to say: “God Bless Texas!”
With the crowd roaring, he continued by thanking his wife and his supporters gathered outside. “Four and half years ago, when we launched a campaign for the United States Senate, nobody thought it was possible,” Cruz said. “And yet, a great many of the women and men who are here, y’all rose up against all the odds, against all the infrastructure, against all the money and against all the party and you said: ‘Enough is enough, we are going to turn this country around.’ I am immensely grateful to all of my friends here, to all of the men and women across this state—the Republican women, the Tea Party leaders, the young people, all of the hardworking men and women across this state who recognized our country is in crisis. There is no limit to what the American people rising up, to what we the people, the grassroots of America, what we can do together. Each of you, you inspire me.”
With the crowd cheering every half sentence or so, Cruz fed off their energy as he reminisced about a week before he announced his campaign for president.
“The fact that you are here suggests to me that you don’t read the New York Times,” Cruz said. “Because the New York Times said we cannot win because apparently I am out of favor with the Washington elites. I have to admit I wanted to print their article, make 300 million Xeroxes and give one to every American voter. It may be the only time in history I’ve ever agreed with the New York Times.”
Roe told Breitbart News that the Washington establishment and political elites have underestimated Cruz every step of the way. Part of the reason, he said, is because part of being a political insider is that they don’t understand anything but the island they live on. Cruz’s team is building an operation that operates a lot like a business, and Roe said that he thinks with a competent leader and an optimistic vision the voters will respond in much the same way consumers do to highly popular products. What makes Cruz’s chances even better, Roe noted, is that there is going to be opportunities along the way—like the recent religious liberty battle in Indiana—where Cruz can show Americans he’s the real deal all the way around. Cruz will be able to lay out how he’s not a leader just some of the time, he’s a leader all the time.
“It’s actually fairly rare—one of the things the senator has been saying a lot is ‘show me what you’ve done, show me where you’ve stood up and led’ and I think that he says that a lot,” Roe said. “But the reality is there’s very few times you actually get to see it. [Last Monday] was one of those days [with the situation in Indiana].”