I don’t think Texas Senator Ted Cruz can win Iowa.
As you have all seen on these pages before, I’m one of the few people who don’t think Cruz’s record matches the persona he’s built since running for the United States Senate in 2012. I’m also not impressed with the campaign he put together in Iowa. For all the talk of the Cruz campaign’s vaunted ground game and use of analytics, I think it’s just that, talk.
One would think that a campaign using analytics would focus its efforts where the voters are, yet the Cruz campaign prioritized hitting all 99 counties with a couple long bus tours in remote parts of the state instead of concentrating their efforts where they need to be strong.
National reporters have been obsessed about Camp Cruz, a dormitory on the AIB college of business in Des Moines, that houses out-of-state volunteers. These volunteers have made thousands of phone calls and knocked on doors, but caucus politics is more about a personal connection between the voter and the candidate than anything else. I’m not saying out-of-state volunteers are worthless. Other campaigns have them too, but there is a lot more to caucus campaigns than door-knocking and phone banking.
Later today, Cruz will complete his trek to all 99 counties. The national media will surely celebrate the feat as a sign of his commitment to campaigning all across Iowa. If I told you that Ted Cruz has never held a campaign event in places like Dubuque or Muscatine, would you still believe that Cruz has a robust ground game bolstered by some of the best analytics every seen? I doubt it.
Now, Cruz has campaigned in Dubuque county, once on April 1st, his first day in the state as an announced presidential candidate. On July 17th, Cruz went to the Field of Dreams movie site for a photo op. That’s it. That’s all the time he’s campaigned in one of the state’s more populated counties that also has a large swath of pro-life activists. Talk about odd.
Cruz has also never campaigned in Muscatine, which is substantially smaller than the city of Dubuque, but still important in a close race. Cruz did hold a campaign event in Wilton, which they appeared to pick because they could cross off both Muscatine and Cedar Counties with one campaign stop. There is an enormous difference between campaigning in a way that makes you assessable to voters and just doing something in order to scratch it off the list. It’s these little things that could cost Cruz dearly tonight when the results start to come in.
In county after county across the state, Cruz has typically only made a recent campaign stop. Whether it be in Mason City on January 8th, Clinton on November 30th or Council Bluffs on October 23rd, the Cruz campaign is staking its fortunes on just one campaign visit. October and November were ages ago in regards to the political calendar. Just to help illustrate that point, on October 23rd Cruz was polling at just under nine percent in Iowa according to the Real Clear Politics polling average. There is a big difference between one of the top contenders coming to town, and a guy who has potential but is still in single digits.
Perhaps the most glaring omission in Cruz’s campaign is how it has essentially ignored Pella and Oskaloosa. The two neighboring counties are fertile turf for socially conservative candidates. It is an area that Bob Vander Plaats carried in each of his gubernatorial bids, and that both Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum owned in each of their caucus wins. Yet, somehow Cruz last visited Oskaloosa on October 14th, and has not been in Pella since June 27th.
Maybe in a race between the likes of Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, Cruz will get away with having a light footprint in Iowa. By the end of tonight, we will know if Cruz did enough to win Iowa. If he loses, the only one he has to blame is himself and maybe his scheduler.
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