Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

3 Surprising Things About Ted Cruz's Campaign

Ben Philpott/KUT News
Ted Cruz meets voters in Des Moines.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz heads to South Carolina today on the next leg of his presidential campaign. KUT’s Ben Philpott has been following his first week on the campaign trail. While much of the week was predictably standard fare for Cruz – and presidential candidates in general – there were a couple things that stood out.

Cruz isn’t afraid to ask for money

Cruz made a splash at the end of the week by announcing his campaign had raised $4 million during the first week of the campaign. That leads us to the first surprise. One might say that he’s a politician, and his career depends on asking for money. That may be the case, but politicians don’t usually look for donations while on the stump in states like New Hampshire.

“Yeah, typically you don’t hear candidates ask for money here. They’re asking for activist support,” says Dante Scala, a professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire. “They’re asking eventually for votes. But New Hampshire is not a money center of, well, either party — the Republican Party or the Democratic Party.”

But he asked away anyway, targeting big donors and also letting small-time contributors that those donations make all the difference.

“The power of doing so is number one. If you give 5 or 10 or 25 bucks, you got skin in the game. Suddenly you’re invested,” he said. “Suddenly you’re going to show up and vote. Suddenly you’re going to talk to your friends. Suddenly it is your fight.”

Making that pitch may have served Cruz well, given his fundraising haul this week.

Cruz knows how to talk to young voters

When Cruz announced his candidacy in front of thousands of college students at Liberty University, the speech had very little to do with younger voters. But then again, that speech wasn’t aimed at college students. It was a speech to launch a presidential campaign. When Cruz had another chance to address the younger generation at a Young Republican’s convention in New Hampshire last week, that speech changed.

“How many of you have ever seen, the TV show 'True Blood?' Last season, I rather unexpectedly had a cameo in 'True Blood,'” he said. “They have an episode where the vampires go to a Ted Cruz fundraiser, and they end up killing just about everyone.”

Cruz also name dropped Jimmy Kimmel, and talked about the power of social media. He also focused on the top priority for many college students: jobs and the economy. Morningside College freshman Jadyn Mohr heard him give a similar speech at her school in Sioux City.

“I loved his speech, it was amazing. He covered all the topics I was really looking for. So it was good to just hear his opinion,” she said. “And I especially liked his speech about why he wanted to be President.”

However, not everything Cruz said was met with such enthusiasm. College students are much more supportive of gay marriage then the general populace. Cruz’s stump speeches focus on preserving the rights for individual states to ban gay marriage.

It’s been a good week for Ted Cruz

What’s surprising there? Things usually don’t go as planned, especially when you’re hopping from town to town and from state to state. Cruz’s early announcement was all about commanding media and voter attention before the field gets crowded. And while in the spotlight, Cruz has stayed on message. He hasn’t made any major gaffes, and he’s been speaking to packed rooms, including a standing room only event in Iowa. He raised $4 million and he made double-digit jumps in some early primary polls, though he is still far from being considered a frontrunner.

“I’m inspired because we were told when we held this gathering that there would be maybe 100 people here,” Cruz told a crowd. “Instead we’ve got standing room only and two overflow rooms, and I appreciate your coming and thank you for being here. But what this says, listen, all of us, we are hungry to change the path we’re on.”

What comes next might be the least surprising aspect of the campaign: The other Republican candidates will join the race and, if Cruz’s momentum continues, he's sure to be one of their main targets in the early going.

Ben Philpott is the Managing Editor for KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @BenPhilpottKUT.
Related Content