Fathers and sons: On Ron and Rand Paul and Rafael and Ted Cruz


Good day Austin:

Well. This is it. The Day of Reckoning.

I arrived in Des Moines a believer in Iowa, and I will leave a believer in Iowa, I think.

The candidates all extol the virtues of the Iowa caucuses, but they sort of have to.

But I agree that the caucuses provide for careful, face-to-face consideration of the candidates by voters who take the responsibility very seriously.

For Ted Cruz the New Year began with a six-day, 28-county tour of Iowa that ended at yet another packed town hall on another bitter cold night at Wartburg College in Waverly on Saturday, January 9.

Cruz was joined that night by his wife, Heidi, and their two children, and in her introduction of her husband, Heidi had this to say about Iowa and Iowans.

Thank you for how seriously you take this responsibility. Ted and I have been crisscrossing  the country for the last year and one of things that has struck me that has been the most interesting lesson of this election  is what a huge  gift it was that our Founding Fathers had these first three states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina decide who the character might be of our next country.

You all are the heartland of American values of communities, of families, of schools, of jobs, and you take these elections seriously. You come not to just to see if a person shares your values and will fight for you, but if a person has character, if they have integrity, if they tell the truth, if you can trust them.

I spent the fist part of the week in New Hampshire. The people of New Hampshire are coming out. They’re  making the same evaluations in South Carolina in the South. Imagine how different these elections would be if the first elections were in California and New York, with their big media markets, where people spend tons of money to be seen on TV.

You all have the responsiblity of looking at us in the eye and asking  the tough questions for this country  and I am grateful and  I know so many citizens across this great nation  are grateful to you.

So thank you for doing that.

 Heidi Cruz, wife of Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, appears during a campaign event at the Johnson County Fairgrounds, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016 in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Heidi Cruz, wife of Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, appears during a campaign event at the Johnson County Fairgrounds, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016 in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Well, I suppose that being married to a constitutional originalist, one is inclined to think that all good things were bestowed upon us by the Founding Fathers.

But the Founding Fathers of the Iowa Caucus were really South Dakota Sen. George McGovern and Minnesota Sen. Don Fraser, who headed a commission that rewrote the Democratic Party rules after the 1968 election.

From Why Iowa?: How Caucuses and Sequential Elections Improve the Presidential Nominating Process,
bt Caroline J. Tolbert, David P. Redlawsk, and Todd Donovan

Everything changed in 1972, as one of the unintended consequences of the national Democratic Party’s McGovern-Fraser Commission was to force Iowa Democrats to hold their caucus earlier in the year. The
commission was formed after the disastrous 1968 Democratic National Convention.

Even though there was a small amount of press coverage of the caucus after it happened, Squire (ibid.)
also points out that South Dakota senator George McGovern spent only  a day and a half on the road in Iowa to achieve his strong showing just behind Maine senator Edmund Muskie. But, as has become the stuff
of political legend, the 1976 Jimmy Carter campaign saw the Iowa caucuses as an opportunity to make a splash and to get media attention for a little-known southern governor. When Carter did better than expected by coming in second to “uncommitted,” his path to the presidency was launched, as was the mythology of Iowa as an important initial test of any would-be presidential candidate.

The point to be made here is that Iowa got its leadoff position not because anyone thought this state would be a good place to begin a presidential nominating process, but simply because its multistage delegate
selection rules required the state’s Democratic Party to change the timing of the 1972 caucus. Subsequently, the leaders of both major parties in Iowa recognized it would be to their benefit to remain first in 1976, and
cooperated to ensure this was the case. But as Squire (1989) points out, this effort most likely would not have mattered but for the Jimmy Carter phenomenon. Once the leadoff position was established and Carter
showed that it could matter, the legend of the Iowa caucuses was born.

As this year’s campaign reached a crescendo I attended two high-energy events in Iowa City  yesterday – the first, an afternoon rally for Cruz at the Johnson County Fairgrounds, and the second, a truly raucous evening rally for Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul at Iowa State University.

In each case, the candidate was accompanied by his father.

It was the first time that Ron Paul, the former congressman from Texas and libertarian icon who won 21.4 percent of the vote and finished third in the Iowa caucuses in 2012, had campaigned with his son, who is hoping to surprise people tonight with a big turnout of students  and other twenty and thirtysomethings like those who gave the Pauls a rousing reception at the University of Iowa, cheering, booing and chanting, “President Paul,” at all the right moments.

It was also, I believe, the first time that Ted and Rafael Cruz had campaigned together in Iowa, at least this month.

I think it is fair to say that in both cases, their father was the most important person in the forming of their political identity.

I arrived a bit late at the Cruz rally – Siri was a tad confused about the location of the Fairgrounds – so I missed the remarks by Rafael Cruz and Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson, who preceded Glen Beck, who introduced Cruz.

But thanks to Todd Gillman’s coverage in the Dallas Morning News, here is a quote from papa Cruz.

“I know that you Iowans take seriously the responsibility that God has given you,” Rafael Cruz said. “I know you will caucus for righteousness.”

Cruz, a pastor who mostly preaches to other pastors about how they have a responsibility to bring their faith into the public square, is the author of a new book, A Time for Action.


Here from a blurb for the book from the publisher, WND:

A Time for Action is the story or one man’s quest for refuge from Cuban persecution to realizing the American dream. It is a story about one It is a story about one man finding true freedom that comes from faith in Jesus Christ. It is the story of this great nation that was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and why it has fallen from grace. It is a wake-up call to the faithful across the land to step up to the challenge of entering the public arena and taking on the forces at work to destroy the guiding  principles that made this country great. Religious people must saddle up. They must vote and volunteer and campaign. They must get in the political game. The followers of Christ are, in His words, “the light of the world.” But for a light to have its effect, it has to shine in the darkness. That’s why our mission is “to declare,” as St. Paul said, “the whole counsel of God.” If we continue to remain silent, we will answer to God for our silence.

Meanwhile, here are a few of my  tweets from the Paul event:

Rand Paul supporters Tiffany Hinkle and Levi McCalin with their daughter, Serena, at Rand Paul rally at the University of Iowa
Rand Paul supporters Tiffany Hinkle and Levi McCalin with their daughter, Serena, at Rand Paul rally at the University of Iowa

In his remarks, Ron Paul, who was even more deliriously received than his son, said;

You know there’s a lot of talk in this campaign about humility. I kind of like the subject and think it pays off  to be a bit humble at times. And libertarianism actually forces you to be humble because the first thing you do is recognize what you don’t know. .. and in politics how do any of us know what’s good for our next door neighbor. We don’t know. How do know how they should spend their money and when they should go off and fight wars. We. don’t know so we should admit we just don’t know.


Cruz bills himself as a “full=spectrum” conservative, and that includes appealing to liberty voters. He seems to have had a fair degree of success.

But there is sometimes a tension between liberty and social/religious conservatives, with the latter tending to be a little more judgmental.

At the Cruz rally  (again courtesy Todd Gillman’s DMN report), Robertson lamented decaying American morality.

“It’s sickening. It’s repulsive,” he said, referring to same-sex marriage as “depravity” and “perversion.” He called it sinful  for the Supreme Court to have legalized same-sex marriage last year. “And they want us to swallow it.… We have to run this bunch out of Washington, DC. We have to rid the earth of them. Get them out of there.”

“Cruz trusts God. Cruz trusts James Madison” – architect of the Constitution. “You know something, Iowa, that trumps Trump.”

Right after the Jan. 14 Republican debate at which Cruz lit into Donald Trump’s New York values, Cruz talked to Sean Hannity.

The debate wasn’t the coolest part of this week.

I started by going duck hunting with Phil Robertson and the whole Duck Dynasty clan. Phil is an amazing shot. That man knows how to handle a shotgun.

And Phil ended up endorsing me, which was incredibly cool, and we ended up putting together this video of me with face paint and camo, and my girls, Caroline and Catherine, thought it was the funniest thing in the world to see daddy in face paint with Phil Robertson.

But you know what. That represents the working men and women, the backbone of this country. Those are who we are fighting for and if we get back to those values in that duck blind in Louisiana, that’s how we turn the country around.

OK, but here from Maggie Haberman In the New York Times back in April.

Senator Ted Cruz has positioned himself as a strong opponent of same-sex marriage, urging pastors nationwide to preach in support of marriage as an institution between a man and a woman, which he said was “ordained by God.”

But on Monday night, at a reception for him at the Manhattan apartment of two prominent gay hoteliers, the Texas senator and Republican presidential hopeful struck quite a different tone.

During the gathering, according to two people present, Mr. Cruz said he would not love his daughters any differently if one of them was gay. He did not mention his opposition to same-sex marriage, saying only that marriage is an issue that should be left to the states.

The dinner and “fireside chat” for about a dozen people with Mr. Cruz and his wife, Heidi, was at the Central Park South penthouse of Mati Weiderpass and Ian Reisner, longtime business partners who were once a couple and who have been pioneers in the gay hospitality industry.

Ted Cruz said, ‘If one of my daughters was gay, I would love them just as much,’” recalled Mr. Reisner, a same-sex marriage proponent who described himself as simply an attendee at Mr. Weiderpass’s event.

Mr. Reisner and Kalman Sporn, who advises Mr. Cruz’s Middle East team and served as the moderator for the evening, said the senator told the group that marriage should be left up to the states. The evening focused primarily on foreign policy, including a discussion of gay rights in Israel versus the rest of the Middle East, and opposition to President Obama.

An aide to Mr. Cruz, reached on Thursday, reiterated that the senator is opposed to same-sex marriage.

Mr. Cruz has honed his reputation as a grass-roots firebrand, and was strongly supportive of the Indiana religious exceptions law that was recently blasted as discriminatory by gay rights activists. When the law was attacked by major businesses like Walmart, he criticized the “Fortune 500’s radical gay marriage agenda.”

In Iowa a few weeks ago, Mr. Cruz said, ““The Fortune 500 is running shamelessly to endorse the radical gay marriage agenda over religious liberty to say, ‘We will persecute a Christian pastor, a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi. Any person of faith is subject to persecution if they dare disagree, if their religious faith parts way from their political commitment to gay marriage.’ ”

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, an ordained Baptist preacher, and Pursuing America’s Greatness, a super PAC backing his candidacy, have gone after Cruz for the seeming inconsistency.

From David Ramsey at the Arkansas Times.

The premise of the spot is that these ladies out at a coffee shop in Iowa decide to take a little break from Bible study to talk about the caucuses. Like, one of them has heard that gay marriage won’t be a top priority for Ted Cruz! He talks one way to donors in New York City and another way to Iowans! And that he doesn’t tithe! A millionaire that brags about his faith all the time doesn’t even tithe!

“Just what we need,” one says. “Another phony.”

“I guess we’ve narrowed down our list,” says the other. “Can’t caucus for Cruz.”

Pursuing America’s Greatness is heavily funded by Ronald Cameron of Little Rock, Arkansas, CEO of the agribusiness Mountaire. Cameron has given millions but not enough to invest in professional actors.

The spot does have some teeth because its target, Cruz, truly does have — as Rand Paul put it last night — an “authenticity problem.” Cruz has the manner of a lecherous carnival barker. His habit of pursing his lips emotively to signal sincerity and his inability to suppress the energetic self love that overcomes him when he hears himself talk — all of this gives normal humans the impression that Ted Cruz is a liar. And this is an especially big problem because Ted Cruz is a liar and the rhetorical style with which he lies turns out to be precisely the same way he talks when he campaigns so passionately about this or that today. This was what was so damaging for Cruz last night when Fox News played past clips of him lying and saying various stuff diametrically opposed to what he was saying during the debate: his delivery in the old clips featured all of the same schmaltzy performative sincerity as his oily delivery on the debate stage. It all sounded the same! So it kind of seemed like he was lying during the debate too, just like he was lying in those clips. I mean, it kind of seems like he’s lying all the time.

Ted Cruz, in other words, really is a phony — perhaps the phoniest person in the United States of America. This is part of the reason why so many prominent Republicans, such as Huckabee, can’t stand him.

Rough stuff. But, in less polemical terms, this report from Will Weissert, makes a similar point

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Ted Cruz sometimes sounds more like a preacher than a presidential candidate, praising the transformative love of Jesus Christ and promising to defend religious liberty. But the Texas senator rarely evokes the biblical tenet of tithing, the mandate that 10 percent of possessions be donated to God.

That’s because Cruz doesn’t tithe. He and his wife donated less than 1 percent of their income to charity and nothing to churches, including to their own in Houston, according to tax returns from 2006 to 2010, the most recent Cruz has released.

His campaign declined requests from The Associated Press to provide recent tax returns or otherwise demonstrate donations since 2010. Cruz has said he and his wife were more focused on using their seven-figure annual income to build a financial foundation for their family.

Being a past charitable cheapskate provides a glimpse of who Cruz was before running for president, when he was known more as a fierce fiscal conservative than a devout Southern Baptist. Cruz’s religious side similarly didn’t dominate his 2012 run for Senate in Texas. Cruz suggested shortly after taking office that politicians should “avoid ostentatiously wrapping yourself in your faith” — advice he has ignored amid his rise in national polls.


On the night he won the 2012 Texas primary, Cruz reminded a packed Houston hotel ballroom that victory came on what would have been the 100th birthday of free-market champion Milton Friedman. Only after that did he praise God.

The following year, Cruz told the Christian Broadcasting Network: “I think anyone in politics, you’ve got a special obligation to avoid being a Pharisee, to avoid ostentatiously wrapping yourself in your faith.”

Now seeking the White House, Cruz has done the opposite. He is trying to solidify support from evangelical Republicans against Donald Trump and religious conservatives like Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, whose supporters have questioned Cruz’s lack of tithing.

Cruz launched his presidential bid at evangelical Liberty University and has sought support from pastors in all 99 Iowa counties. A super political action committee built a website trumpeting his faith bona fides, including a video detailing how a then-8-year-old Cruz “surrendered his heart to Jesus” during summer camp at a Christian ranch. Cruz mentioned faith repeatedly in Thursday’s GOP debate.

So, here is the bind that Cruz finds himself. At some point he has to square this circle, if he want to be both the candidate of Phil Robertson, who describes Cruz as “one of us,”in the duck blind,  and the candidate of  Mati Weiderpass and Ian Reisner in their Central Park South penthouse.

Rafael Cruz clearly is on the Duck Dynasty side.

Rafael Cruz 1557

From his book:

But most disturbing of all, the recent Supreme Court ruling legalizing homosexual marriage is one of the biggest signs of our country’s moral degradation. By purporting to legalize and mandate homosexual marriage, the Supreme Court has given gay couples a “civil right” based on Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

While this amendment was originally intended to grant equal rights and protections to former slaves, the Supreme Court’s decision, in essence, has decided that it simultaneously—and unbeknownst to every person who voted to ratify it—rendered unconstitutional the marriage laws in every state in the union. This is preposterous. It is not law. It is blatant judicial activism, five unelected lawyers declaring themselves (as Justice Scalia put it in powerful dissent) the “rulers” of 320 million Americans.

And when homosexual marriage becomes a mandatory civil right,the next obvious step is to enforce this civil right in private businesses, Christian organizations, and even churches. You see, the decision in favor of homosexual marriage is really a decision against religious freedom

Meanwhile, Frederick Clarkson, who studies the Christian right for Political Research Associates, issued a report earlier this month, that places Rafael Cruz’s views in context.

The evangelical Christian Right and Roman Catholic bishops are intensifying their campaign to carve out arenas of public life where religious institutions, individuals, and even businesses may evade civil rights and labor laws in the name of religious liberty. By creating zones of legal exemption, the Christian Right seeks to shrink the public sphere and the arenas within which the government has legitimacy to defend people’s rights, including reproductive, labor, and LGBTQ.  In this, it is often aligned with the anti-government strategy of free market libertarians and some business interests, who for a variety of reasons also seek to restrict arenas where government can legally act. This conservative Christian alliance is challenging a century or more of social advances and many of the premises of the Enlightenment underlying the very definition of religious liberty in the United States. Its long-range goal is to impose a conservative Christian social order inspired by religious law, in part by eroding pillars of undergirding religious pluralism that are integral to our constitutional democracy.

The Cruz campaign’s success in recruiting evangelical leaders means there are plenty of supporters with potentially headline-grabbing views.

For example, here, a recent story  from John A. Oswald in the Forward:Ted Cruz Endorsed By Preacher Who Said Jews Will Be Exterminated If They Don’t Embrace Jesus

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is trumpeting the endorsement of a doomsday preacher who warned Jews must accept Jesus — or face extermination.

His name is Mike Bickle, and he is the founder of the International House of Prayer (yes, IHOP), based in Kansas City, Mo.

Back in 2004, Bickle had this to say about the Jews:

“Let me tell you, these 20 million — less than 20 million Jews worldwide, there’s about 5 million in Israel, about another 15 million worldwide, a little bit less than that — those 15 million, God is going to bring them all back. Two-thirds will die in the rage of Satan and in the judgments of God and one-third, every one of the one-third, will be in the land before it’s over and they’ll be worshipers of Jesus … The Lord says, ‘I’m going to give all 20 million of them the chance. To respond to the fisherman. And I give them grace. And I give them grace …if they don’t respond to grace, I’m going to raise up the hunters … And the most famous hunter in recent history is a man named Adolf Hitler.’”


Oy vey.

Here was the Cruz announcement of Bickle’s endorsement.

HOUSTON, Texas – Presidential candidate Ted Cruz today announced the endorsement of Mike Bickle, Founder and Director of the International House of Prayer of Kansas City, an evangelical missions organization based on prayer.

“Our nation is in a great crisis in this hour,” Bickle said. “We need a president who will first be faithful to honor God’s Word. We need a president who will work to defend religious liberty, uphold our Constitution, keep our country safe and our economy sound, and speak truth to the nation. We have been praying for righteous leaders, and Ted Cruz is such a leader. I am enthusiastically endorsing Ted Cruz.”

Then there’s this, which has nothing to do with religion but does seem to be a campaign tactic that a liberty-minded voter especially might find objectionable.

From Kevin Diaz in the Houston Chronicle:

DES MOINES, Iowa – As the presidential candidates made their last pitches ahead of Monday’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, some Iowa voters started getting mailers citing them for emergency “voter violations.”

The mailers, from the Houston campaign office of Texas Republican Ted Cruz, look something like parking tickets. They read: “Election Alert … Official Public Record … Important Notice … VOTING VIOLATION,” followed by their recipients’ names and failing letter grades.

Amid a final scramble of saturation television advertising and campaign rallies for 15 major party candidates, the Cruz get-out-the-vote mailer generated much of the countdown buzz – some of it unwelcome.

Iowa’s top election official called it deceptive.

“Today I was shown a piece of literature from the Cruz for President campaign that misrepresents the role of my office, and worse, misrepresents Iowa election law,” State Secretary of State Paul Pate, a Republican, said in a statement Saturday.

The faux “voter violations” arrived as Cruz is in a tight race with GOP front-runner Donald Trump, who leads the pack with 28 percent support, according to the Des Moines Register’s final poll. Cruz was at 23 percent, with Marco Rubio in third place at 15 percent.


Under the heading “VOTING VIOLATION,” in block letters, the Cruz mailer read: “You are receiving this election notice because of low expected voter turnout in your area. Your individual voting history as well as your neighbors’ are public record. Their scores are published below, and many of them will see your score as well. CAUCUS ON MONDAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE and please encourage your neighbors to caucus as well. A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday’s caucuses.”

Pate said Iowa officials don’t grade voters or maintain records of their participation in caucuses.

Cruz aides described the mailer as a well-tested practice to increase voter turnout, an explanation that didn’t please his rivals.

Rand Paul, running fifth in Iowa, tweeted: “Tactics of a career politician.”

Cruz defended the mailer at a campaign event Saturday night in Sioux City, one of the last stops in a push to visit all of Iowa’s 99 counties – a feat that helped Rick Santorum win the Iowa caucuses in 2012.

“I will apologize to no one for using every tool we can to encourage Iowa voters to come out and vote,” Cruz told reporters. “Our country’s in crisis.”

Here is Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 5.28.07 PM


Sasah Isssenberg described the origins of this very effective shaming technique in his book, Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns. Here from the prologue.

In 2005, a Michigan political consultant named Mark Grebner—whose glasses, stringy parted hair, eccentric polymathy, and relentless tinkering earned him comparisons to Ben Franklin—had written to two Yale political science professors who he knew were interested in finding new ways to motivate people to vote. The next year, they collaborated on an experiment in Michigan in which they sent voters a copy of their own public vote histories, along with their neighbors’, and a threat to deliver an updated set after the election. It was marvelously effective, increasing turnout among those who received it by 20 percent. But no candidate or group wanted to be associated with a tactic that looked a lot like bullying—and a bit like blackmail.


It took three years of trial and error by academics and operatives, including Malchow, until he settled on softer, more friendly language — thanking people for having voted in the past as opposed to threatening them if they didn’t in the future —that delivered impressive results in a randomized experiment. During a test conducted during New Jersey’s 2009 gubernatorial elections, such a letter had increased turnout among voters who received it by 2.5 percent. Through other tests, Malchow had found that many political messages were most effective when delivered in understated white typed envelopes, as opposed to multicolor glossy mailers, and so he packaged the Colorado social-pressure letters in a way he hoped would resemble an urgent notice from the taxman. “People want information, they don’t want advertising,” Malchow said. “When they see our fingerprints on this stuff, they believe it less.”

But, somehow, the Cruz campaign preferred the original, harsher Big Brother bullying/blackmail approach, fingerprints and all, choosing to send out the intimidating notice, with its return address.

And, when called on it, Cruz said, essentially, the ends justify the means.

But it gets worse. It appears the figures on which the the letter grades are based were plucked from thin air.

From Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker:

In Iowa, although voter-registration information is free and available to the public, voter history is not. That information is maintained by the secretary of state, who licenses it to campaigns, super PACs, polling firms, and any other entity that might want it. So was the Cruz campaign accurately portraying the voter histories of Iowans? Or did it simply make up the numbers?

It seems to have made them up. Dave Peterson, a political scientist at Iowa State University who is well-acquainted with the research on “social pressure” turnout techniques, received a mailer last week. The Cruz campaign pegged his voting percentage at fifty-five per cent, which seems to be the most common score that the campaign gives out. (All of the neighbors listed on Peterson’s mailer also received a score of fifty-five per cent.)

Peterson, who is actually a Hillary Clinton supporter, moved to Iowa in 2009. He told me that he has voted in three out of the last three general elections and in two out of the last three primaries.

“There are other people listed on my mailer who live in my neighborhood that are all different ages, but everyone on this sheet has the same score of fifty-five per cent,” he said. “Some are significantly younger and would have not been eligible to vote in these elections, and others are older and have voted consistently, going back years. There is no way to get to us all having the same score.” (Peterson also spoke with Mother Jones.)

If the Cruz campaign based its score on local elections, Peterson said, the number also wouldn’t make sense, based on his participation in those elections as well. A source with access to the Iowa voter file told me that he checked several other names on Cruz mailers and that the voting histories of those individuals did not match the scores that the Cruz campaign assigned them in the mailer.

I spoke with David Redlawsk, the Rutgers University political scientist who is one of the authors of Why Iowa, said someone he knew received the mailer at the information was wrong, giving him a low grade he had not earned.

If there is one way to irritate Iowans, Redlawsk said, it is to accuse them of shirking their civic duty, especially when it isn’t true.

Looking at it from across the political and ideological aisle, here is memo from Ed Espinoza, executive director of Progress Texas.

On Friday it was revealed that the Ted Cruz campaign sent “voter violation” mailers to people with low voter turnout histories. This is called a ‘social pressure’ tactic and these types of practices have been tested and proven to be successful.

But Cruz made a critical error that could cause the effort to backfire.

Social pressure campaign tactics are proven to work – but there is a catch: it is better for a social pressure effort to be conducted by an entity that is not on the ballot in an upcoming election.

In 2014, Progress Texas conducted a large-scale social pressure online effort that delivered four million impressions to a statewide audience of 250,000 drop-off voters in Texas. The result was a statewide increase of one percentage among the target audience that saw the social pressure ads, compared to a control group which saw none of the ads. You can read more about that case study here.

Ted Cruz’s first error was that the mailer came directly from his campaign, which means that voters who are compelled to turnout may also be compelled to retaliate against his “voter violation” mailers.

Cruz’s second error is that he straight up lied by assigning letter grades and telling voters that they can improve their score by participating in the Iowa caucuses. Iowa’s Republican Secretary State said Cruz is misrepresenting election law.

What Ted Cruz did was more akin to political intimidation, and thus it could very well backfire.

As one Iowa voter tweeted out, “Hey @tedcruz your brilliant public shaming campaign has inspired me to caucus on Monday…For @marcorubio.”



Without Trump, the thrill is gone

Good morning Austin:

I gotta tell you.  Last night’s debate really left me conflicted.

I thought Megyn Kelly was great.



Alfred Hitchcock would have loved Megyn Kelly

And I really missed Trump.

Why can’t we all get along?

Call me shallow, but without Trump, the debate was sort of dull. Kind of a dud.

I doubt the debate fundamentally altered the race.

Maybe Trump, by his absence, was merely eating up the clock in a contest in which the polls find himself a little ahead of Ted Cruz. Cruz has the compensating – or perhaps more-than-compensating – advantage of a superior ground game.

I doubt Cruz lost any of his faithful last night. But I think his performance was off and not very appealing. He missed an opportunity to present himself as the commanding alternative to Trump as front runner.

He didn’t advance his agenda of leaving the audience convinced that this was down to a two-person race between him and the absent Trump.

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio talk after a Republican presidential primary debate, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio shake hands after the Republican presidential primary debate on Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

From Rich Lowry at National Review, which devoted its last issue to denouncing Trump.

If Jeb got running room with Trump not on the stage, Cruz was denied oxygen. It certainly feels like he’s running behind here (although his internals evidently still have him ahead) and he was loaded for bear for Trump.
Plus, Cruz perhaps does best in close combat, and there is great opportunity in being able to stand up to and best the Alpha Dog. Without Trump, Cruz was a little at sea. In his tussle with Chris Wallace over the rules, he let too much of his prickly argumentative side show.
His riff about how all the other candidates had been invited to attack him was ill-conceived. Cruz was trying to repeat his triumphant catalog of loaded questions from the CNBC debate, but it is one thing to do that in defense of the other candidates; it is another to do it trying to make yourself out as a victim.

He followed it up with an attempted joke at Trump’s expense about leaving if the questions were too too tough that fell flat. The rest of Cruz’s night was good (and particularly admirable on ethanol), but in Trump’s absence a test for Cruz was if he could establish a frontrunner-worthy sense of dominance, and he didn’t.

From Jonathan V. Last at the Weekly Standard. Cruz Flails at Trumpless Debate:

With Donald Trump skipping the debate to consort with Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum (because he cares so very much about veterans), Ted Cruz had a golden opportunity to make a strong closing pitch to Iowa voters. He missed it.

Cruz started out strong, with a clever line about Trump’s patois. But after that he failed to hammer home the difference between himself and Trump. Instead, he was dragged into debates about foreign policy and budget bills and immigration poison pills. Maybe Iowa voters will absorb the contrast—that Cruz has a grasp of policy and Trump doesn’t implicitly. But maybe not.

As a tactical matter, it wasn’t a bad performance from Cruz. He held his own against the other six candidates on stage. His ethanol answer—which at this point has been honed to a razor edge—was exceptionally good. And he probably helped himself more than a little in his long exchange with Rubio on immigration. But as a strategic matter, what Cruz wanted to do was to present himself as a commanding, steady figure. Instead, he got steamrolled by Chris Wallace in the first half and then found himself arguing with Rand Paul—currently at 3.9 percent in the RealClear Iowa average—over who was the more genuine libertarian. That’s not the fight Cruz needs to be having four days before the caucus.

In several spots Cruz reminded people that he is a lawyer, to a fault.

He didn’t come off well when he tried to grab some time from moderator Chris Wallace.

CRUZ: Chris? Chris I was mentioned in that question.

BUSH: No, you weren’t. Your name wasn’t mentioned, Ted.

CRUZ: … Actually, I was…

BUSH: … Chris, keep it coming…

WALLACE: … I don’t think that your name was mentioned…

CRUZ: … Chris, your questions that you…

WALLACE: … Sir, I think — I think the question was…

CRUZ: … What was your question…

WALLACE: … It’s not my question that you get a chance to respond to, it’s his answer.


WALLACE: You don’t get 30 seconds to respond to me…

CRUZ: … Your question was you have disagreed…


WALLACE: … You don’t get 30 seconds to respond to me…

CRUZ: … (inaudible) opening statement.

WALLACE: … If I could go on. Sir, I know you like to argue about the rules, but we’re going to conduct a debate…

BUSH: … Thank you Chris…

WALLACE: … Governor Bush…

CRUZ: … This entire question was an attack, but that’s (inaudible)

And, as Lowry notes, his attempt to reprise his successful riff about how the moderators were attempting to unnecessarily pit the candidates against one another seemed merely self-serving and defensive when, in fact, those other candidates – especially Marco Rubio and Rand Paul – didn’t need any prompting to go after Cruz.

CRUZ: Chris, I would note that that the last four questions have been, “Rand, please attack Ted. Marco, please attack Ted. Chris, please attack Ted. Jeb, please attack Ted…”

CRUZ: Let me just say this…

WALLACE: … It is a debate, sir.

CRUZ: … Well, no, no. A debate actually is a policy issue, but I will say this. Gosh, if you guys ask one more mean question I may have to leave the stage.


A debate actually is a policy issue?

Huh? I think this was Ted Cruz, champion college debater, making an inside debate point, but I didn’t get it.

And, while the Cruz folks believe that every time the conversation turns to immigration, they win, the exchanges with Rubio and Paul on immigration were revealing in a way that did not redound to Cruz’s benefit.

From Patrick Healy and Jonathan Martin in the New York Times:

DES MOINES — The Republican presidential candidates competed vigorously to fill the vacuum created by Donald J. Trump’s boycott of Thursday night’s debate, with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida trading ferocious attacks on immigration and taking fire from rivals seeking advantage in the Iowa caucuses on Monday.

Mr. Cruz and Mr. Rubio, who are behind Mr. Trump in the Iowa polls and hoping for surprise finishes here, were repeatedly confronted with pointed questions about their views and Senate votes on providing citizenship or legal status to immigrants who are in the country illegally. But it was Mr. Cruz who was hit hardest on the issue, as Mr. Rubio teamed up with Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky to portray him as an opportunist.

“Everybody’s for amnesty except for Ted Cruz,” Mr. Paul said, turning Mr. Cruz’s favorite shibboleth against him as he denounced the “falseness” that he said Mr. Cruz perpetrated. “That’s an authenticity problem.”

Mr. Rubio was even harsher as he tries to upset Mr. Cruz here and finish in second place, which could strengthen his position against Mr. Trump in the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary.

“This is the lie that Ted’s campaign is built on,” Mr. Rubio said, seizing on a brutal compilation of video clips that the Fox News debate moderators had shown, highlighting Mr. Cruz’s apparent shifts on immigration.

Mr. Cruz struck back by getting nearly as personal with Mr. Rubio. “I like Marco,” he said, unconvincingly. “He’s very charming. He’s very smooth.” However, Mr. Cruz added, when Mr. Rubio came to the Senate, he backed off his hard-line stance on immigration and supported an overhaul favored by the Republican Party’s “major donors because he thought it was politically advantageous.”

Here’s more from Rubio”s back-and-forth with Cruz:

RUBIO: … no, I understand, but let me respond. I was mentioned on this — in this answer, and so I’m going to respond this way.

This is the lie that Ted’s campaign is built on, and Rand touched upon it — that he’s the most conservative guy, and everyone else is a — you know, everyone else is a RINO.

The truth is, Ted, throughout this campaign, you’ve been willing to say or do anything in order to get votes. Ted, you worked for George W. Bush’s campaign…


You — you — you helped design George W. Bush’s — you helped design George W. Bush’s immigration policy. And then, when you got to the Senate, you did an interview with CBS News — I (ph) wasn’t even part of the video — where you said, on the issue of people that are here illegally, “we can reach a compromise.”

And then in the committee, you said, “I want to bring people out of the shadows.”


Now you want to trump Trump on immigration. But you can’t — we’re not gonna beat Hillary Clinton with someone who’s willing to say or do anything to win an election.

KELLY: Go ahead, Senator Cruz.


CRUZ: You know, I like Marco. He’s very charming. He’s very smooth. But the facts are simple. When he ran for election in the state of Florida, he told the people of Florida, “if you elect me, I will lead the fight against amnesty.”

When I ran in Texas, I told the people of Texas, “if you elect me, I will lead the fight against amnesty.” We both made the identical promises. But when we came to Washington, we made a different choice.

Marco made the choice to go the direction of the major donors — to support amnesty because he thought it was politically advantageous.

With the movement base, Cruz wins on immigration vis-à-vis Rubio. A few key words – amnesty, Gang of Eight, Chuck Schumer – are all that’s required. But he cannot compete with the blunderbuss simplicity of Trump’s build a wall, make Mexico pay for it, ban Muslim immigrants.

But Cruz’s case that he led the opposition to amnesty is too cute by half.

From Josh Feldman at Mediaite

Kelly turned to Cruz to confront him about a bill he pushed years ago that appeared to support legalization. She ran clips of Cruz making statements that seem to contradict his current claims that it was a “poison pill” to kill immigration reform.

Cruz continued to insist he introduced amendments to “fix problems with the bill” and said he did NOT support the rest of the bill.

But it was all too lawerly.

As Megyn Kelly told Cruz on her post-debate show, for a guy running against the Washington cartel, his play-acting at the time that he was sincerely trying to improve the immigration legislation he now condemns, when in fact he was actually trying to kill it, sounds a bit too “cartelly.”

Rubio, Paul and, subsequently Cruz, were all elected  to the Senate as tea party heroes. It’s one thing for Cruz to attack a creature of Washington like Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who Cruz called a liar on the Senate floor.

But he is running for president as the only one who kept faith with the movement, and the combination of Rubio and Paul both expressing their irritation with Cruz’s preening purity rang true.

From University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus:

Overall it was pretty subdued affair, proving that Donald Trump is right:  it’s boring without him.  The biggest targets ended up ISIS and Hillary Clinton, rather than Donald Trump as expected.   

It was Ted Cruz’s moment to shine but he came off as too lawyerly and strident.  Substance-wise, Ted Cruz was on point.  Cruz got tough on national security issues, talked about military readiness.  Some of the immigration tet-a-tet winged him.  Style-wise he came off as unlikable and strident.  This might be a rare case where a candidate’s likability factor hurts their vote share.  Rand Paul, fan club filling the hall, most likely to strike against Cruz on security but Cruz didn’t take the bait.  

Marco Rubio won, slightly by default.  He did a good job channeling the JFK-Reagan nexus, but not as well as debates past.  Rubio charged up the ISIS rhetoric, prodded the strengths of the US military, countered only by Paul on respecting civil rights. 

Christie come in at a close second, again railing against the Washington double speak and playing up executive experience in the wake of 9/11. 

The moderate lane got a little more crowded as several candidates merged in.  John Kasich pleaded for support from across the aisle.  Christie much the same.  Bush talked up building consensus.  All looking past Iowa to New Hampshire where prospects are better.