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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

 

Cruzing to second place?

by Tom Sullivan

A large sedan with magnetic Ted Cruz signs on the doors was out front when I returned to my South Carolina hotel last night. (I spend a lot of time in SC.) Two men in Cruz tee-shirts were in the lobby this morning discussing their volunteer list over breakfast. (Someone backing Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida seems to have beaten them to reserving the conference room off the lobby; the double doors are plastered with Rubio's name.) None may have been with the actual campaigns.

Over the weekend, a large "Choose Cruz" sign appeared at a major intersection in an upscale part of Greenville, SC near the Michelin North America headquarters. One of the largest employers in the state, Michelin is known by some vendors as the "blue Mafia," although Greenville County, where last Saturday's GOP debate took place, is perhaps the reddest part of South Carolina. Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy of the Benghazi hearings fame represents the area.

A sandwich place near the intersection is a hub for business people to have lunch meetings and for pastors, youth ministers, and churchy people to meet to talk about churchy things. Maybe a third of the people in there pray over their meals.

Two guys eating beside me last week were talking about a friend who was making some pocket money canvassing for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. They spoke about how this country needs a Christian in the White House, and Christians teaching in our schools, etc., etc. The one guy was new to the area and shopping for a church. One he mentioned favorably had a pastor who was "politically engaged." That was a selling point. There are no lines between church and state for this sort. The Bible tells them so.

It seems Ted Cruz is receiving a lot of paid help in South Carolina from PACs (one in particular) encroaching on traditional campaign turf:

Said super PAC, called Keep the Promise—which is actually sub-divided into several different PACs, each funded by a different billionaire family—has blithely tossed the traditional super PAC playbook to the winds. In fact, they’ve taken on typical campaign operations: gathering voter data, targeting likely Cruz supporters, and knocking on thousands of doors to get out the vote.

The super PAC has had upwards of 250 people canvassing the state, targeting the homes of persuadable Republican voters. Thus far, they estimate they’ve knocked on more than 93,000 doors. And by Election Day, they’re shooting to have knocked on 100,000. In any given week, they say, 100 to 150 individual people spend eight-hour days doing the door-knocking. And most of them get paid.

[...]

Keep the Promise staff explained that the group has been door-knocking across the state, in a few targeted regions and counties, since last November. In early January, those door-knockers started focusing on persuasion: identifying likely Republican primary voters who favor an Evangelical Christian candidate, knocking on their doors, and having conversations aimed at persuading them to back Cruz

Meanwhile, the Cruz campaign proper is calling on local TV stations to stop airing an attack ad on Cruz sponsored by a different super PAC, American Future Fund:

"The ad falsely claims 'Cruz proposed mass legalization of illegal immigrants.' Ted Cruz has never introduced, outlined, or supported any policy that would give legal status to illegal immigrants," wrote Eric Brown, general counsel to the campaign, in the letter shared with the media. "Indeed, quite the opposite, Ted Cruz led the fight in Congress against legislation written by Senator Rubio, among others, that created legal permanent status for millions of people in the country unlawfully. At least two fact-checks have evaluated this claim and determined it to be false, and others found no evidence to support it.”

American Future Fund has spent heavily against Cruz in Iowa and in South Carolina, painting the senator in the latest spot as soft on immigration enforcement and "weak" on national security, including by tying him to Bernie Sanders and President Barack Obama. POLITICO reported last week that the group, which is overseen by veteran GOP operative Nick Ryan, is spending $1.5 million on broadcast and cable stations through Saturday, the day of the Republican primary.

For all the PAC money and Cruz's "punching up" at Donald Trump, given Trump's dominance in the race (it is about dominance, isn't it?), Cruz is liable to finish second at best, PACs or no PACs.

(h/t reader JH for photo)