Texas Senator Ted Cruz wrapped up his first swing through Iowa as an official presidential candidate on Thursday. There is no other way to describe Cruz’s trip than as a success, but a few Iowans may be guilty of taking things a little too far.
On Thursday, Steve Deace, a nationally syndicated radio host and contributor to a number of conservative publications tweeted, “I have never seen a candidate drawing the crowds in Iowa the size of Ted Cruz this early”
On Friday, Deace tweeted, “Spoke to a grizzled veteran of Iowa Caucus politics who told me he’s never seen early crowds and energy like he just saw for Ted Cruz.” Whoever the “grizzled” caucus veteran may be, he isn’t alone. I’ve seen and heard the same thing on social media sites.
Cruz and his campaign should be ecstatic about how well the launch of his presidential campaign has gone and the interest he has received around Iowa. All that said, we have seen candidates draw Cruz-like crowds in Iowa before. All this talk about how Cruz is drawing these unusually large crowds simply isn’t accurate. In fact we see crowds like this in Iowa every cycle.
Dr. Ben Carson packed people into a Polk County GOP fundraiser in the fall of 2014. Carson’s problem isn’t a lack of interest in Iowa, it’s a lack of time spent in the state.
In 2011, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann routinely had large crowds when she began campaigning in the state. Bachmann is the classic reminder that it’s not how you begin a race, it’s how you finish.
If you wanted to see some good crowds in the 2012 caucus race, look no further than Newt Gingrich. I remember catching up him in May of 2011 at the Olde Main Brewing in Ames. The place was packed. Even though Gingrich would falter out of the gate, in the fall of 2011, he was packing them in again. Gingrich’s problem is that he never devoted himself to holding his own events across the state. Had he done that, I think he would have won the caucuses.
Former Texas Governor Rick Perry also knew how to attract large and enthusiastic crowd in Iowa. The Polk County GOP picnic in 2011 was swimming with people on the Iowa State Fairgrounds.
In 2007, it was Mitt Romney drawing large crowds early on. I remember attending an early campaign stop of his in Cedar Falls. At 9 a.m. in the morning, Romney backed the basement of Beck’s Sport’s Brewery.
Later on in 2007, Rudy Giuliani would hold a campaign event in the gym at Valley High in Des Moines. There were probably more people at that event in 2007 than there were at all of Ted Cruz’s events in Iowa last week combined.
Now if you really want to know what enthusiasm looks like, go back to George W. Bush’s campaign in 2000. As a former staffer to Steve Forbes, I would cringe when I saw the big crowds he was drawing. Forbes was no slouch, but Bush was a rock star.
So next time you hear someone say that they have NEVER seen crowds like the ones Texas Senator Ted Cruz is getting, look them in the eye and tell them they need to get out more. When candidates like Cruz come to Iowa in the midst of a lot of media speculation, it’s like the circus is coming to town. This is especially the case outside of Des Moines. A candidate visit is an event, and even if you already have a preference for a particular candidate, many people still feel the need to go see what all the talk is about.
Caucus history also seems to indicate that initial crowd size doesn’t really mean all that much. The last two-caucus winners, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, struggled to attract crowds in the early days of their campaigns. I bet if you asked Cruz whether he would rather be like Mike Huckabee or Michele Bachmann, I’m pretty sure he would take Huckabee any day.
Photos by Dave Davidson Prezography.com
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