Politics & Policy

Ted Cruz’s Not-So-Secret Weapon: His Wife

Hillary Clinton’s courtiers would hate to admit it, but Senator Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi, is set to provide a vivid refutation of Democratic claims that Republicans pine for 1950s domesticity.

“I am unabashedly proud of everything about Heidi,” Cruz replied when Bloomberg Politics asked if her career at Goldman Sachs could undermine his critique of crony capitalism at the investment bank.

Not just proud of, but reliant upon. Beyond the personal support that all candidates require from their families, Mrs. Cruz brings political talents to the table that could prove helpful in the 2016 election season. Her Goldman Sachs ties make her a “not-so-secret weapon” in terms of fundraising, per Representative Kevin Brady (R., Texas). The personal charm that enhances those fundraising abilities also makes her an effective surrogate on the campaign trail, as Cruz’s rivals learned during his longshot Senate bid in 2012. And she’s a foreign-policy expert, having served on the National Security Council during George W. Bush’s presidency. Far from fretting that she could be a liability to his presidential candidacy, the senator and his team are “very confident that she is one of our campaign’s greatest assets,” according to spokesman Brian Phillips.

A friend of the family from Texas put it more dramatically: “She brings more to the table than any other spouse in the field, except for maybe Bill Clinton, and she does so without the baggage of a Bill Clinton.”

For instance, friends say, she brings to the campaign trail some of the personal skills that distinguish a politician such as Bill Clinton from Ted Cruz. “Heidi is a secret weapon because she is so warm and so endearing and so thoughtful that I think that her influence on him has been transformative; he would not have been a senator were it not for Heidi and for her role and her support,” another friend David Panton — who lived with Ted Cruz for five years, first as an undergraduate at Princeton and then for a year at Harvard Law School — tells National Review.

Heidi’s personal touch may help offset Cruz’s stentorian style, friends say. “When voters get to know who Heidi Cruz is, they will see an amazing, amazing woman and I think that that will help to at least counter this image of Ted that has been portrayed in the media,” Panton says.

Mrs. Cruz is no stranger to elections. She met her future husband while volunteering for George W. Bush’s presidential campaign and made an instant impression. “I’m embarrassed it took me two days to ask her out to dinner,” the senator told the New York Times. She impressed a lot of other people, too, going on from the campaign to hold multiple posts in the Bush 43 administration, culminating in her post at the National Security Council. The family dinner table isn’t a foreign-policy briefing room for the Cruzes, but her perspective certainly hasn’t diminished his understanding of international issues in the Western hemisphere, her area of specialty. “In addition to being the senator’s partner on the campaign trail, she also will actively advise him in areas for which she is an expert,” Phillips says.

When not serving in government, the Harvard Business School graduate has built an impressive career on Wall Street (which has already paid dividends for her husband; he received $65,000 from Goldman Sachs employees and the company PAC when he ran for Senate). “She’s well-respected and has lots of admirers,” Brady told National Journal while discussing her potential as a fundraiser for the presidential campaign. “So that could be part of the reaching out—whether it’s Wall Street or Texas.”#related#

That résumé could insulate her from some of the attacks leveled against the wives of Republican presidential candidates in the last cycle. “The party’s retrograde attitude toward the role of women in the world, and in marriage, would find center stage in the persons (or personas) of Ann Romney and Janna Ryan,” Lisa Miller wrote for New York magazine, citing their decisions to take on the role of stay-at-home moms.

That doesn’t mean that no one will use the couple’s family arrangements to criticize Senator Cruz. Buzzfeed, for instance, called attention to the fact that she left the Bush administration after her husband became solicitor general of Texas.

“Had she not been married, and free to choose, I think she would have stayed for three more years,” said Ed Haley, who taught Heidi Cruz, née Nelson, at Claremont McKenna College. “My sense is she really loved what she was doing and chose to go back to Ted so that she could help him campaign. . . . She was sorry to go, and reconciled to going.”

Friends emphasize unanimously that she is a devoted mother, but they reject the “domestic martyr” brand applied to GOP spouses in previous election cycles.

“She continued working at Goldman while Ted was solicitor general, and when he became senator, she didn’t give that career up, and I think obviously excelled,” says Panton, who also works in private equity.

“I would never see her as a martyr for his career,” says another friend who has known Heidi since college. “Hands down, she is his closest adviser.” For the 2016 election, Mrs. Cruz is taking a leave of absence from her Goldman Sachs post in exchange for a desk at campaign headquarters.  

On some campaigns, such a vocal spouse is a consultant’s worst nightmare, but friends say that her business experience has made her adept at empowering a high-powered team to craft a plan of action.

“When I watched her go through the Senate campaign, she was quite complimentary of the team around Ted, even when she didn’t necessarily agree with them,” the friend continues. “She’s opinionated and she’s got a point of view, but as a person she’s pretty reasonable and she can be swayed. She’s not someone who, on ego, will dig in.”

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