The $38 million super PAC supporting Ted Cruz plans to highlight polarizing issues as part of a full-throttle plan to turn out the white evangelical voters that can power him to victory, a new document reveals.
Keep the Promise, whose strategy is detailed in a 51-slide PowerPoint presentation titled “Can He Win?” recently posted to the organization’s website, mercilessly attacks 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney as unable to elevate “wedge issues,” or divisive issues that polarize voters, to the forefront of the Republican debate. Calling Romney a “terrible candidate with a terrible campaign,” the slides pillory him as a Republican who managed to squander winnable states just like every other “loser” moderate candidate.
By deploying these issues and emphasizing his Hispanic heritage and religious roots, Cruz can win the presidency, the super PAC says.
The presentation, seemingly written to appeal to donors, syncs with much of the pitch that Cruz himself makes on the stump: that Republicans have their best chance of winning the White House if they nominate a clear-eyed conservative who can turn out the GOP base. But the presentation makes the fullest case yet for how Cruz’s allies believe he has a path both to win the Republican nomination and then to defeat Hillary Clinton, who is mentioned by name in the presentation.
The motivation for posting the plan was unclear. Dathan Voelter, the treasurer of the super PAC, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon.
On the slides’ properties page, a person named Chris Sipes is listed as the “author.” They were last edited on Sunday and come days after Cruz’s campaign posted hours of unscored B-roll footage to an old YouTube account. The super PAC, which can’t legally coordinate with the campaign, originally called on Cruz to upload exactly that. Sipes could not immediately be reached for comment.
A ‘positive campaign’
The constellation of the four super PACs that comprise Keep the Promise, which together say they have raised $38 million, plans to begin a “positive campaign” in the early-voting states around the time of the first debate on August 6, according to the presentation. Cruz and his allies plan to highlight his “deep faith” in order to capitalize on “upside potential” that they believe the Texas Republican has not yet captured.
Using a May survey commissioned by the Republican polling firm TargetPoint, the super PAC argues that Cruz has the perfect mix of awareness and popularity with GOP primary voters. The only other candidates with more potential growth are Scott Walker and Marco Rubio, it argues.
“TED HAS REAL GROWTH POTENTIAL WITH EVANGELICALS AND LIBERTARIANS,” one slide reads before transitioning to the next section: “THIS PRIMARY IS REALLY DIFFERENT.”
Cruz has placed a heavy, although not exclusive, emphasis on Iowa, which tends to nominate more conservative candidates like himself. Yet his campaign has secured endorsements in states that don’t vote until as late as June, and Cruz himself has mused openly about a brokered convention.
His super PAC, though, appears to think he may be able to score a quick win.
“Schedule is significantly different than past years — favors more conservative candidate,” reads one bullet point. “At least six well-funded candidates — making it very difficult for Establishment to destroy the conservative challenger.”
Three consecutive slides together emphasize Cruz’s path to victory: “The calendar leans SOUTH,” reads one. “The calendar leans RIGHT,” reads the next. “The calendar leans CRUZ.”
The super PAC is expected to be surprisingly well financed, and the presentation confirms that three of the top 10 super PAC donors in 2012 — Robert Mercer, John Childs, and Bob McNair — have all donated to the group. The super PAC is decentralized into four different organizations to give three clusters of donors — Mercer, Toby Neugebauer, who has donated $10 million to the group, and a third unknown family — more control over their contributions.
Keep the Promise highlights six candidates who they see as well-financed — Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Rubio, Walker and Cruz — but in ensuing slides, it takes down those competitors as insufficiently conservative by grading them on a spectrum of issues critical to the base.
Cruz allies also see him as having “the most complete portfolio of ‘Assets'” compared to Bush, Paul, Rubio, Walker and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Only Cruz has tsihe five ingredients for a win: “Small dollar donors,” “large super PAC,’ “social media followers,” “grass roots support,” and “sophisticated data analysis.”
Prospective Cruz backers also hear the super PAC pitch the accomplishments of the Houston-based campaign, over which it has no control but nevertheless says can run an “Obama” quality campaign.
“Campaign managed by great executives,” reads one bullet point, “not people who can write and produce TV commercials.”
The organization has already began plotting a path to defeat Clinton — which more or less revolves around repudiating everything that Romney did in his campaign in 2012. Cruz himself has said Romney was a poor candidate, but he generally has done so gently and taken pains to note that he respects Romney as a person.
“He was the one man on the planet who could not use ObamaCare as a wedge issue,” the super PAC claims, calling him a “social media amateur.” “Romney HAD NO WEDGE OR MAGNET ISSUE to turn out the voters he needed.”
Keep the Promise then walks readers through multiple states where Romney failed and Cruz can succeed, including Florida, New Mexico and Colorado, where the organization sees Cruz holding appeal as a Hispanic candidate. It appears to project that Cruz can defeat Clinton in the Electoral College by a 296-242 margin if it wins Virginia, Ohio, Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.
They key nationwide, though, is to harness conservative energy as a magnet for evangelical voters. That won’t happen if they nominate Bush, who the super PAC seems driven on tearing down.
“The Establishment Never Learns,” one section head says. “For 2016 they have chosen, Jeb Bush. The one person on the planet that forfeits Republicans on every Hillary wedge issue.”