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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

Immigration, Taxes, Health Law On The Line In Tuesday’s Battle For Senate

By Todd J. Gillman, The Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON — For six years, the Obama White House could count on having allies in control of at least one side of Congress. That could change Tuesday, and if it does, the impact will be swift and dramatic.

Immigration, taxes, energy, nominations, health care, the president’s legacy, the next elections — it’s all on the line.

Control of the Senate hinges on 10 tight, hard-fought and costly races from Alaska to New Hampshire. Republicans have a strong chance of picking up the six seats needed to wrest control of a chamber that has eluded them throughout Barack Obama’s term.

For the president, a Congress fully controlled by adversaries would force drastic retrenchment. For Republicans, the leverage to impose their agenda would be liberating. It also would entail plenty of complications.

“We’ve been in the minority for a while. Often, saying no is exactly the right answer,” said Sen. John Cornyn, the Texan poised to become the Senate’s second-most-powerful member if his party takes control. “When you’re responsible for governing, it requires a different approach.”

Whether the GOP’s tea party faction accepts a measured approach remains to be seen.

Many conservatives would view victory in the Senate, even by a narrow margin, as a broad mandate, said Norm Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He predicts they’ll be emboldened to “oppose this president at every turn.”

If the White House thought House Republicans have been pesky, with inquiries over Benghazi and the IRS, it should brace for a fresh onslaught of Senate subpoenas and oversight hearings. Until now, it’s been shielded from those, courtesy of Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

“Probably the worst job in the next two years will be White House counsel,” Ornstein said.

And impeachment demands will only escalate.

“You’re going to see a drumbeat from the grass roots that is already out there,” Ornstein said at a recent forum. “It is going to be a challenge for Republican leaders not to move in that direction. They all know that it would be incredibly stupid and catastrophic.”

Interest groups recognize the stakes Tuesday. Outside spending on key Senate races has reached levels unimaginable a few years ago.

The 2012 contest in Virginia set a record with $52.4 million in spending by outside groups. At least three matchups this fall have passed or will pass that mark. Colorado’s Senate contest has attracted $68 million. Iowa’s has drawn $61 million.

The pacesetter is North Carolina. More than $80 million has poured into the state from sources reflecting the myriad issues that hang in the balance.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce alone has pumped $5.3 million into Republican challenger Thom Tillis’ cause. Crossroads GPS, the Karl Rove-founded group, has put in $4.9 million. The National Rifle Association has chipped in $6.7 million.

On the Democratic side, teachers unions and abortion rights groups have invested millions to prop up Sen. Kay Hagan. The League of Conservation Voters has injected $4.9 million into defending Hagan and, more broadly, the Democratic firewall.

A GOP takeover would mean a majority leader from coal country, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, assuming he’s re-elected.

“In terms of legislative action, we’re stuck,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, the League of Conservation Voters’ senior vice president for government affairs. “They’re going to promote a pro-polluter, anti-public-health agenda.”
Across the ideological divide, Republicans see full control of Congress as a way to block Obama.

“We stop his agenda. We stop him from stacking the courts with liberal progressives that could never get a bipartisan vote, from stacking regulatory agencies,” Rep. Paul Ryan — a potential 2016 contender and the GOP nominee for vice president in 2012 — told Fox host Sean Hannity last week.

Controlling the Senate would let Republicans unleash a wish list endorsed by the House GOP — nearly 400 bills that have died in the Democratic Senate. The new Congress could quickly send bills to the White House to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline or to cut corporate tax rates.

These could provoke Democratic filibusters and vetoes from Obama. Or, Republicans hope, they’ll spur a willingness to bargain.

“We don’t know what Democrats’ attitude will be — whether they’ll try to shut things down and embarrass the other side, or whether this election will serve as a wake-up call,” Cornyn said. “It’s going to require a reassessment by (Obama) about what he wants his last two years in office to be like.”

Patrick Griffin was chief lobbyist for the White House during the “triangulation” phase of the Clinton administration — when the president, facing a hostile Congress, cut deals with adversaries over the objection of Democratic allies. He agreed that Obama will be forced to adapt to an unpleasant new reality.

“He has to shift, radically,” said Griffin, now academic director of American University’s Public Affairs & Advocacy Institute. “Lean in — and be prepared to accept less than he might want.”

With Republicans in charge, confirmations will come to a screeching halt, especially for lifetime judicial posts.

Foreign trade deals become more likely, though. The president might find common cause with Republicans. And Republicans could use the issue to drive a wedge between him and other Democrats.

GOP leaders promise confrontation on many fronts, even as they try to hold down expectations among their base voters.

In the weekly GOP address, McConnell promised that a majority “would mean we’d be able to bring the current legislative gridlock to a merciful end.”

Efforts to repeal Obamacare, or at least to hobble it, would be a top priority. But McConnell reminded Fox viewers last week that Obama will spend his final two years defending the health care overhaul.

“People need to understand that that constrains our ability to … get rid of it,” he said.

The dynamic would shift instantly on immigration, though.

Last year, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws. It died in the House.

There is no chance a GOP-held Congress would clear a path to citizenship for the 11 million people in the country illegally, a key sticking point.

Regardless of what the new Senate looks like, “it’s the same House that’s being held hostage by a very small right wing of the GOP,” said Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. But, she added, “if the Republicans are serious about finding their way back to the White House in 2016, they absolutely must deal with immigration.”

Three close races are in states that Obama lost in 2012 by wide margins — Alaska, Arkansas and Louisiana — though Democratic incumbents are fighting to the end. Republicans also hope to topple senators in Colorado, North Carolina and New Hampshire.

Open seats in Iowa and Georgia are up for grabs.

“We are on a razor’s edge in terms of who’s going to control the majority,” Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democrats’ Senate campaign arm, said Thursday at a forum sponsored by Politico.

Republicans will have a lopsided share of Senate seats on the line in 2016, as Democrats did this year.

They’ll want to chalk up some accomplishments, not just vetoes. But the GOP senators up for re-election next time will be loath to anger tea partiers back home by looking too conciliatory. And the presidential contenders — Texan Ted Cruz, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Marco Rubio of Florida — probably will agitate for confrontation as they jockey for attention in Iowa and New Hampshire.

“Whenever there’s an attempt to do something constructive, McConnell’s going to have a problem, maybe worse than he ever had,” Griffin said.

Cornyn, though, foresees less internal friction.

“We all are going to be eager for action. It boils down to tactics,” he said. “We have a common incentive: If we demonstrate we’re incapable of governing, then our chances of winning the presidency are not much better than zero.”

AFP Photo/Win Mcnamee

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Ted Cruz Welcomed By Some Senate Candidates, Shunned By Others

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

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Cruz will spend Saturday in Georgia pitching voters on David Perdue. That will bring to three the number of Senate nominees the Texas Tea Partier has clasped hands with this fall.

Republican hopes to reclaim the Senate hinge on eight to ten crucial races. Cruz, one of several senators eyeing the White House in 2016 and by far the most divisive in either party, has been doing his part. He’s sent checks to some candidates, raised money for others, and donated generously to the party’s Senate campaign arm.

He’s also stumped where he’s been invited, which turns out to be a limited number of contested states: Iowa, Kansas and Georgia. He’ll be in Alaska the weekend before Election Day, an aide said Wednesday.

In other battlegrounds where moderate voters hold the key, such as Colorado and North Carolina, Cruz isn’t the go-to guy. The 16-day government shutdown he instigated a year ago remains unpopular — one of several reasons that for each candidate who welcomes Cruz, there are more for whom his embrace would be toxic.

“I’m on the road just about every day. Primarily campaigning to help retake the Senate in 2014, which I think we have a tremendous opportunity to do,” he said in a recent interview. “I’m going to be in a number of other states. We’re set to travel quite a bit” in the final push ahead of Nov. 4.

In Kansas, Cruz joined three-term Sen. Pat Roberts last week. Challenger Greg Orman pounced on him for “inviting the architect of last year’s government shutdown.” Kansas political analysts agreed that the Cruz appearance came at a price.

But during the Republican primary in Kansas, he’d been pummeled as insufficiently conservative by Tea Partier Milton Wolf, who pitched himself as the next Ted Cruz. Roberts won but needed to shore up support in his own party.

“I want to talk in particular to conservative voters, to tea party voters,” Cruz said at a rally in Wichita. “If you’re frustrated with Washington, the answer is not to stay home and keep (Democrat) Harry Reid as majority leader.”

Brian Walsh, a veteran GOP strategist and Roberts consultant, called it invaluable.

“Senator Cruz was a great help. It was very useful for him to be there to rally conservative voters in Kansas, particularly with Senator Roberts still coming off a very divisive primary,” he said.

Jennifer Duffy, a top Senate analyst at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, agreed that Cruz was “probably very helpful in coalescing the conservative base. … So that was worth it.”

But in plenty of other states, candidates prefer to keep Cruz at arm’s length, she said.

Take New Hampshire, site of the first presidential primary in 2016.

GOP nominee Scott Brown, an abortion rights supporter, casts himself as someone able to work across the aisle more effectively than Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

Cruz has visited the state three times this year and hasn’t been seen with Brown, unlike another 2016 contender, Kentucky Tea Party Sen. Rand Paul, who has made himself far more palatable to establishment Republicans.

“Scott Brown and Ted Cruz have nothing in common,” said Duffy.

Cruz is dispensing some of his help below the radar. He sent $5,000 checks from his campaign accounts to six Senate candidates, including Brown, last month.

On Oct. 7, Cruz quietly hosted a fundraising event in Houston for four Senate hopefuls: Rep. Tom Cotton from Arkansas, Dan Sullivan from Alaska, Joni Ernst from Iowa and Mike McFadden from Minnesota. All but Ernst are taking on incumbents.

Cruz’s name popped up in the Minnesota race when McFadden accused liberal Sen. Al Franken of being so extreme that he’s “the Ted Cruz of the Democratic Party.”

So far, the Texan has appeared in person only with Ernst, in August, and he has the Georgia and Alaska trips pending. Cruz also has stumped this fall for two U.S. House candidates, in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Elsewhere, Cruz isn’t as much in demand. In North Carolina, where spending on the Senate race will top $100 million and set a national record, Thom Tillis is trying to oust Sen. Kay Hagan. In Colorado, Rep. Cory Gardner is trying to topple Sen. Mark Udall. Moderates hold the key in both states, and that’s hardly Cruz’s sweet spot.

“I’m sure people accept his help, and he is being helpful,” said a GOP strategist, speaking only on condition of anonymity. But “if I was Cory Gardner, I want to be 100 miles from Ted Cruz.”

Cruz has sent GOP senators and nominees $67,500 since taking office in early 2013, plus $29,000 to a handful of U.S. House candidates — modest sums compared with other incumbents.

The $250,000 check he sent the National Republican Senatorial Committee a month ago was more eye-popping — and a sign of bridge-building after his role as a vice chairman of the group resulted in only friction.

Republicans appreciate Cruz’s donations of money and face time. But “this is not going to make up for what he did for the last year and a half,” the strategist said.

The litany of complaints includes Cruz tussling with party leaders; refusing to endorse fellow Texas Sen. John Cornyn during the primary; calling other Republicans “spineless” Obamacare-lovers if they resisted his government shutdown strategy; and prodding House conservatives into near-rebellion against Speaker John Boehner.

Cruz and his aides bristle at assertions that he’s so polarizing, he’s been mostly sidelined compared to his potential 2016 rivals this fall.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has raised $100 million as head of the Republican Governors Association and has barnstormed the country. Paul has stumped in more than two dozen states for congressional and statewide candidates, also piling up chits.

That’s not to say Cruz hasn’t been busy. So far this year, he’s headlined more that 40 GOP fund-raising events. And he’s a star at conservative conferences.

He spent a full weekend this month in South Carolina — site of the third presidential contest in 2016 — meeting with local Republicans. Before a Clemson University football game, he stumped with the state attorney general at a tailgate party.

In Texas he’s cultivating a network of allies, helping attorney general nominee Ken Paxton, comptroller nominee Glen Hegar and a host of legislative candidates. He’s paid extra attention to Konni Burton, a former Cruz campaign volunteer who’s running for the Fort Worth seat that state Sen. Wendy Davis gave up to run for governor.

On Saturday, Cruz will stump in Atlanta and Savannah for Perdue, who’s no tea partier but could use their help in a tight race with Democrat Michelle Nunn.

Such efforts could yield better Senate relationships for Cruz, and plant seeds for 2016.

“There are fences to mend,” said Duffy. “He’s just done so much that screams, ‘I’m not a team player.’ Some of this makes him seem like a team player.”

Photo: jbouie via Flickr

No, Canada: Sen. Ted Cruz Has Formally Shed His Dual Citizenship

By Todd J. Gillman, The Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON—Alberta-born Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has given up his Canadian dual citizenship. The renunciation became official on May 14, roughly 9 months after he learned he wasn’t only an American.

Cruz received notification by mail on Tuesday at his home in Houston.

“He’s pleased to receive the notification and glad to have this process finalized,” said spokeswoman Catherine Frazier.

Cruz’s birth in Canada was never a secret. But it proved a political liability, with detractors taunting him as “Canadian Ted” and critics suggesting that his birthplace made him ineligible to run for president.

The dual citizenship came as a surprise to Cruz and his parents when The Dallas Morning News reported on it last August.

The senator provided a copy of his Canadian birth certificate at the time. He vowed almost immediately to shed his Canadian citizenship, and promised to tell The News first as soon as he succeeded.

“Nothing against Canada, but I’m an American by birth and as a U.S. senator, I believe I should be only an American,” he said the day of the initial report.

Canadian law is similar to that in the United States. Citizenship is automatic for nearly everyone born on the country’s soil, whether that person wants it or not, and without any need to request it. In theory, Cruz could have asserted the right to vote in Canada, or even to run for Parliament, and he could have received a Canadian passport.

Under U.S. law, a foreign-born baby is entitled to American citizenship if at least one parent is an American. That was the case for Cruz — and it’s a crucial point if he makes a White House run in 2016, as is widely expected.

The U.S. Constitution requires a president to be a “natural born” citizen. The popular understanding has long been that this means being born on American soil. But Cruz was entitled to American citizenship at birth. Because of that, a strong legal consensus has emerged that Cruz is, in fact, eligible.

That’s something the tea party senator has in common with President Barack Obama, whose father was Kenyan but whose mother was from Kansas. So-called “birthers” have proposed that Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii. But even if true, he would have been an American at birth.

In December, Cruz said he had hired lawyers to assist in the effort to renounce his Canadian citizenship.

When he was born on Dec. 22, 1970, his parents were living in the Canadian oil patch in Calgary. His mother is a native-born American. His father, a Cuban émigré who later became a naturalized American, was still a Cuban citizen.

Cruz has said that when he was a child, his mother had told him she would have had to make an affirmative act to claim Canadian citizenship for him. Since that never happened, the family always had assumed that he did not hold Canadian citizenship.

jbouie via Flickr.com

Obama To Name San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro To Cabinet Friday

By Todd J. Gillman, The Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON — On Friday, President Barack Obama will name San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to serve as the nation’s next secretary of Housing and Urban Development, a White House aide said.

Rumors began to circulate last weekend that Castro would come to Washington as part of a Cabinet shuffle. The president plans to name current HUD secretary Shaun Donovan as his new budget director. He replaces Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the president’s choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services.

The president, joined by Castro and Donovan, will announce the appointments Friday afternoon at the White House, the aide said.

“The president is thrilled that Secretary Donovan will take on this next role and believes that Mayor Castro is the right person to build on his critical work at HUD based on his work in San Antonio,” the aide said. “In five short years, Mayor Castro has made significant progress in San Antonio and put the city and its citizens on a new trajectory. He has been a leader among mayors in terms of implementing housing and economic development programs and under his leadership San Antonio has been highly successful at lifting educational attainment and spurring job creation. He has built good relationships with other mayors and key partners in the administration’s placed-based initiative strategy. The president is excited about the mayor bringing his practical, on-the-ground success to scale at the federal level.”

Donovan’s previous job had been commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

HUD has a $47 billion budget. Its missions including helping with home buying, distressed communities and homelessness. Donovan also has been overseeing federal efforts to recover from Hurricane Sandy.

Castro, 39, is serving his third term as mayor of San Antonio. Like the president, he has a law degree from Harvard. He won the mayor’s job in in 2009 and was re-elected in 2011 and last year.

The White House cited his work to revitalize inner city neighborhoods.

His twin, Rep. Joaquin Castro, is a freshman congressman from San Antonio. Both are seen as rising stars among Texas Democrats.

HUD was created in 1965 under Lyndon Johnson. Castro would be the third Texan to lead the department — and the second former San Antonio mayor, after Henry Cisneros, a Democrat who served during Bill Clinton’s first term. Alphonso Jackson, a former Dallas Housing Authority chief, served during Republican George W. Bush’s second term.

©afp.com / Mandel Ngan