After last night's stunning victory in the Iowa Caucuses, Ted Cruz will lead much of the media coverage on the Republican side. He will head into New Hampshire with momentum, and will benefit from millions of dollars in earned media that will make him more well-known with Republican voters nationwide. As more people turn their attention to the presidential race, and start to decide who they will support, Cruz will continue to pick up support from the grassroots of the GOP. Here is why.
All throughout this presidential campaign, Senator Cruz is the Republican candidate who best understands and appreciates the frustrations of grassroots conservatives and tea party activists nationwide. His rise to prominence and a U.S. Senate seat in 2012, (I campaigned for him that year), was built on a consistent message of limited government and conservative principles. He picked a fight with the "DC cartel" as he calls it, and has not changed his message significantly since then. Cruz entered the Senate with a head of steam, and fought hard for his beliefs, often making some folks in DC quite uncomfortable.
But he never sought to appeal to DC -- he sought to appeal to people outside DC. On the campaign trail in 2012 I remember showing up at tea party meetings or Republican clubs, and making the pitch for Cruz. There was always a lot of skepticism at first, and folks were not completely sold -- until he showed up and spoke to them directly. Cruz spoke to the grassroots activists in their language, and showed that he understood their values, fears, and desires. He was one of them -- and he would be their messenger in DC. He would not go there to get along with the "DC cartel." He would go there to disrupt and upset the establishment, and he would never apologize for it.
Because Cruz did just that, starting on Day One of his job as U.S. Senator, his supporters became extremely loyal. And as he took his message to the rest of the country from 2013 - 2015, it resonated with grassroots activists in places like Iowa, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, and other states. Here was a Senator that was willing to fight for them, and for their ideals. Here was a potential presidential candidate that would represent the conservative grassroots of the GOP, and take the fight to the liberal Democrats. And never apologize for fighting for his, and their, beliefs. If you understand that, then you can understand Cruz's appeal, and you can understand why he will do very well in the weeks to come in this presidential race.
Brendan Steinhauser is a national political strategist focused on campaigns, media, and public policy.