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Cruz Excites The GOP Base, But Big Donors Remain Skeptical

Politics Tribune News Service

Cruz Excites The GOP Base, But Big Donors Remain Skeptical


By Todd J. Gillman, The Dallas Morning News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Cruz’s ambitions are clear. He’s a frequent visitor to Iowa and New Hampshire. He’s building a campaign staff.

But to make a serious White House bid takes serious money — at least $20 million by the time the first ballots are cast in early 2016. And that could be a challenge.

Although the Texas Republican is popular at conservative gatherings, Cruz has shown only modest success as a fundraiser. Like Ron Paul and Sarah Palin, he can probably count on showers of cash from enthusiastic legions of small-dollar donors, and that’s an important start.

But many major GOP donors and bundlers want nothing to do with a Tea Party agitator — particularly business interests dismayed by the federal-spending brinkmanship Cruz has advocated. That could limit his ability to elbow aside well-funded rivals.

“There are very few people I’ve seen inspire the grassroots like Ted Cruz,” said Eytan Laor, a Miami Republican who runs a political action committee that backed about 100 conservative federal candidates this year. But “he has a rap on him from people who don’t know him — the government shutdown, not electable, et cetera. It’s an issue.”

Much of the party’s donor class is rooting for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush or, at the least, waiting to see whether he makes a move.

“The big elephant in the room is Jeb Bush,” said Ray Washburne, a Dallas developer and national finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, who is neutral in the race. “Donors are all waiting to see what Jeb’s move is.”

He added: “You don’t want to be the first mover to Ted Cruz or Rand Paul if Jeb ends up running. Everyone wants to get behind whoever they think is going to win.”

Washburne figures it will take at least $10 million to be viewed as “a legitimate candidate” by the time of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary in early 2016. And $20 million would be better. The contest could be over by mid-April, and the nominee likely will be someone who raked in at least $50 million by then, though fundraising tends to snowball for the winner of early contests.

Cruz raised about $15 million in his insurgent Senate run in 2012. That was enough to shove aside Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, with the help of a wave of tea party support in the GOP primary. In the last two years, he’s raised another $3.8 million, plus about $640,000 for a political action committee, the Jobs Growth and Freedom Fund.

Individual donors, as opposed to political committees, account for two-thirds of the revenue.

As an indication of his drawing power, after his overnight Senate talkathon against the Affordable Care Act last year, Cruz raked in more than $200,000 in a single week. And other help is available: Last month, Cruz’s roommate and debate partner from Princeton, David Panton, created a SuperPAC that can raise and spend unlimited sums to support a candidate. The group is called Stand for Principle.

“I would like him to run for president,” Panton said. “We need strong, moral principles conservative leadership in America that I think Ted offers.”

SuperPACs cannot directly coordinate with a candidate or his campaign. But they can aim at the same goals.

“He is someone I have known a long time, and someone I trust implicitly,” Cruz said of Panton, an Atlanta investor.

Maria Zack, an Atlanta-based GOP operative who served as a top aide in Newt Gingrich’s 2012 campaign, chairs the SuperPAC. Her goal is to raise $50 million by March 2016. The finance committee held its first conference call a week before Thanksgiving.

“We are building a team,” she said. “I don’t think money will be an issue at all. … He is brilliant and he inspires people and our phones will ring off the hook.”

There are other routes to financial success in presidential campaigns, besides direct fundraising. Having a megadonor as a patron is a nice shortcut.

In 2012, Wyoming investor Foster Friess pumped more than $2 million into former Sen. Rick Santorum’s effort. Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate, gave $20 million to a super PAC that backed Gingrich, a former House speaker. Although no donor can give more than a few thousand dollars directly to a campaign, the advent of super PACs means there’s no limit on what an individual can spend on behalf of a candidate or cause.

Adelson has met with Jeb Bush and others. Cruz sat beside him at a pro-Israel dinner last month in New York, and they met privately for two hours the next day. So far, the “Adelson primary” has yielded no endorsement.

After the Adelson meeting, Cruz shared lunch with a small group of other Jewish leaders.

According to the New York Observer, he lamented that donors will rally to “moderate establishment” candidates such as Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and perhaps Mitt Romney, who, in his view, would lose. “A lot of donors will rush to write them checks. And yet if the nominee comes from that bucket, the same voters who stayed home in 2008 and 2012 will stay home again,” Cruz said.

Cruz ally Michael Needham, chief executive of Heritage Action for America, which supports conservative candidates, said the senator is one of many candidates who’ll be able to raise the resources needed.

“I know tons of people who would write checks to Ted Cruz, and that goes from the person who can give a one-dollar bill to people who can write much larger checks,” he said. “Ted has inspired millions of people and will have the support to do whatever he wants to do next.”

Conservative leader Gary Bauer, who sought the GOP nomination in 2000, dismissed the idea that Cruz would be too polarizing. He noted the defeats of Romney and Sen. John McCain in the last two presidential elections.

“They were good men but did not excite the base,” he said. “The only way you can win is if you’re an outspoken conservative.”

Laor, the Florida Republican, met Cruz a few years ago and quickly became a fan. He predicted that Cruz will win over skeptics as he barnstorms the country but said that doesn’t alter his huge disadvantage when it comes to fundraising.

“Jeb Bush definitely has a great political machine,” he said. “He’s got an army of donors and other political operatives that he’s worked with over the years.”

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr



  1. Kim Serrahn December 2, 2014

    I wouldn’t even cross the street to shake Cruz’s hand.

    1. JO December 3, 2014

      I would cross the street to avoid any and all contact with Ted Cruz!

  2. bobnstuff December 3, 2014

    Ted Cruz might win the primary but he could never win the general election. He may excite the right wing base enough to take the republican nomination but the moderates and the liberals will never give him enough votes to win and the republicans can’t disenfranchise enough voters for this one.

    1. FireBaron December 3, 2014

      I seriously doubt he could even win the Primary. While his Tea Party rhetoric is acceptable in Iowa, demagoguery like his does not play well in New Hampshire. Lose badly enough there and most people won’t even give him a shot in South Carolina.

      1. bobnstuff December 3, 2014

        We can only hope.

  3. John Vitka December 3, 2014

    where are the BIRTHERS???

    1. FireBaron December 3, 2014

      They only come after Democrats, never their fellow Republicans. Although, Karl Rove did try to raise the issue regarding John McCain, who was born in a Military Hospital in the US Canal Zone in Panama.

      1. Whittier5 December 7, 2014

        Major point of McShame’s birth is that the “canal zone” had no special territorial significance in them thar days before WW II.

  4. Dominick Vila December 3, 2014

    Cruz has developed rhetorical skills that appeal to the most radical members in our society to an art form. He is playing them like a bunch of fools…and they love every minute of it. I think it is worth noting that he seldom speaks specifics on issues that matter and never offers a long term vision on how to solve the problems he continuously talks about. The essence of his rhetoric is overt hatred, his strategy is limited to obstructionism and demonization of anything the far right hates, his target is anybody the far right hates, and his objective is being elected President, with only hatred to offer and his Canadian birthrights, which I suspect that in the eyes of some means being a natural born citizen, as opposed to President Obama who, according to them, was born in Hawaii by way of Indonesia, Kenya, and outer space. How does the right justify the dichotomy inherent in the latter? By reminding people that Cruz’s mother was born in the USA, as opposed to Obama’s who was born in a distant place called Kansas!

    1. FireBaron December 3, 2014

      You mean like a certain Austrian-born orator who made his mark in Germany in the late 1920s to early 1930s?

      1. Dominick Vila December 3, 2014

        The similarities between the two may be closer than a lot of people think. As a minimum, both managed to convince the ignorant to support them, and support their agenda, against all logic. However, I doubt Tea Party supporters will ever acknowledge that they didn’t know what was going on….

  5. Bren Frowick December 3, 2014

    The money men who run the GOP like Cruz as a firebrand press secretary, stirring up frenzied, hysterical, unreasoning fanaticism, because is gets them votes. But they don’t want a blatant demagogue who appears to actually believe the crazy nonsense he spouts -or at least has has so thoroughly boxed himself into the corner of “ideological purity” that he would have no choice but to act it out – running anything. His “grass roots” support constitutes about 8% of the voting public. And that is all he will ever get, even in a primary.

  6. FT66 December 3, 2014

    I can bet all my life savings that Cruz will never ever become President. All noise with no substance. One needs to do the right Maths in order to reach 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and become an occupant for some few years. Who can tell me Cruz can garn at least 20% of African-American votes and the same percentage of Hispanic votes. These two blocs don’t see eye to eye with a Canadian born Ted Cruz. They have gone completely. Without them how can he even dream of the job? He is wasting his energy, time and money for nothing.

    1. plc97477 December 3, 2014

      He has also made a point of alienating the “squishes”

    2. 788eddie December 3, 2014

      I believe the phrase in Texas is “all hat; no cattle.”

  7. Frank KIng December 3, 2014

    Cruz is just another bad actor in the “theater of the Absurd” seeking the GOP nomination. Returning the Presidency to the right wing is a possibility that may happen in consideration of the last two middle elections that have returned to power the remnants of the last right wing bunch that created the misery they visted upon the nation the last time they took control of the government and our lives. America has a short memory and no sense of recent history or they would never have sent the right wing back to DC to create their political, economic mischief for greed and personal gain in total disregard for the best interests of the people of the United States.

    1. Whittier5 December 7, 2014

      “America” did NOT send the wrong-wingers “back to DC”. 51% of 36% (or less) of “America” did. The wrong-wingers have managed to so stain and stink up Democracy that 64% of the Electorate stayed home – or didn’t send in their ballots from the comfort of home (while they still have a home).

  8. iowasteve December 3, 2014

    The issue I see here is this – wasn’t Ted Cruz one of the members of the “birther” movement??? How can be possibly believe that he is qualified to be President – he was NOT born in the US. Doesn’t matter what his parents were and doesn’t matter if he renounced his citizenship in Canada. Becoming a Canadian citizen is not the same as being naturally born there. There is a big difference here that I’m not sure he understands. For someone that constantly rams the constitution into everyone, he is the one I thought would actually know what it says and understand it. Obviously, if he insists he can run for President, he knows nothing about it. Which since he is a republican conservative, I understand that full well.

  9. Whittier5 December 7, 2014

    How was Canada so Lucky as to extradite their National village idiot?


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