by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Ted Cruz has a ready answer for the many Republicans who see him as a rigid ideologue likely to be demolished should he make it to the general election: Such an ideologue is the party’s only hope of winning in 2016.
Since his election to the Senate in 2012, Cruz has argued that center-right candidates such as John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 demoralized conservatives and kept them away from the polls; run a right-winger who can energize them, he promises, and the resulting outpouring of enthusiasm will carry Republicans to victory. Cruz and his team have talked endlessly about the power of these missing conservative voters, and their theory remains the subject of considerable skepticism in the political class.
And yet, Cruz heads the most data-driven campaign in the GOP race, employing cutting-edge technology to profile, target, and turn out supporters. Statistical awareness permeates the culture of the operation from the candidate to his most junior aides. And Cruz’s top advisers, speaking strictly on background, say the Texas senator’s controversial claims about untapped the conservative masses — along with many other calculations and assumptions the campaign is making about the upcoming election — are far from conjecture.
“Our decisions are based on actual data,” a senior Cruz adviser tells NR. “If we see something and my gut says no, if there’s data that disproves what I think is right or wrong . . . too bad, so sad. And we hold each other accountable on that.”
Cruz’s top advisers have relied on the work of a handful of political scientists to shape their view of the 2016 race, though these scholars dispute some of their conclusions. Cruz’s team points to the dozens of scholarly articles written by Jim Campbell of the University of Buffalo, who has spent decades measuring the impact of swing voters on presidential elections, and from the 2014 book The Gamble, a data-driven account of the 2012 election by the professors John Sides and Lynn Vavrek. (When I tell the Cruz adviser I’m not familiar with the book, which I have since read, he looks at me blankly and says, “It is an incredible disservice to you and your employer and anybody who does what you do, the fact that you haven’t read that book.”)