It turned out that Ted Cruz was no Sharron Angle or Christine O’Donnell.
“He was just a good candidate, in addition to being good on policy,” says Brendan Steinhauser, the federal and state campaigns director at FreedomWorks. “Whereas in the past we’ve had some candidates that are great on policy, but not good candidates. But he was everything. He was both.”
“They have to be able to compete on their own, and the Tea Party can help push them over the top,” Steinhauser says, noting that Cruz was a good communicator and campaigner. “We learned that from 2010 with a couple candidates that shall remain nameless: You can’t just win with enthusiasm, you got to have a good candidate.”
Sal Russo, chief strategist of the Tea Party Express, which endorsed Cruz, says that Cruz paired a willingness to be firm on the fiscal issues important to the Tea Party with an ability to run a campaign. “[Candidates] have to demonstrate to us that they understand what it takes to raise the money, and build the organization and the campaign structure to be successful,” Russo says.
So in June of last year, when there were several other candidates (David Dewhurst had not yet announced that he would run, although it was anticipated that he might throw his hat into the ring), FreedomWorks and Club for Growth endorsed Cruz. A month later, so did Jim DeMint, solidifying Cruz’s status as the Tea Party favorite in the race.
“We meet a lot of candidates,” says Chris Chocola, president of Club for Growth. “And a few are extraordinary, and he was one of the extraordinary ones.” Chocola was impressed by Cruz’s background, including his time as a clerk at the Supreme Court and the fact that a teenage Cruz had read and lectured on such thinkers as Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises.
But the groups didn’t just endorse. FreedomWorks’ Steinhauser describes extensive work in the state to reach out to activists. “We did 30 grassroots training seminars around the state of Texas where we taught people how to campaign,” he says, talking about helping people develop skills such as running phone banks. “We printed out 30,000 yard signs and they were distributed by our members and allies across the state. We made a total of [over] a million calls going back to January, voter-ID phone calls and get out the vote. We knocked on 125,000 doors.”
“We empowered the grassroots to go out there and do the most powerful marketing tool that there is, which is face-to-face communication,” he adds.