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Inside the Cruz Campaign

Binyamin Rose

After a quick start, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas got mired in the midsummer blues, dropping back in the polls. In the last month, though, polls now show the combative first-term senator beating Donald Trump in February’s Iowa caucus, the season’s first state to vote. How did Cruz make his leap to the head of the pack? And what’s his strategy to stay there? Nick Muzin, a top Cruz strategist and an Orthodox Jew, shares with Mishpacha the plan to bring Cruz all the way to the White House.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

For Ted Cruz, a typically long, grinding day on the presidential campaign trail starts with breakfast in the car on the way to his first public appearance of the day. 
One recent Wednesday in Englewood, New Jersey, Cruz broke with that tradition. He ate before climbing into the car driven by Rabbi Zev Reichman, spiritual leader of Englewood’s East Hill Synagogue and the organizer of that morning’s sit-down with a group of Orthodox Jewish voters.
“His breakfast typically consists of eggs and either some sausage or ham, but he knew a rabbi was waiting to drive him,” says Nick Muzin, Cruz’s Torah-observant deputy chief of staff and senior campaign advisor. “He didn’t want to bring pork into the rabbi’s car, so he refused to come out of the hotel until his breakfast was done.”
Breakfast ingested, Cruz situated himself in the backseat and asked the rabbi how his morning was going. Rabbi Reichman, who starts his day with a diet of daf yomi, expounded on that day’s daf that delved into the concept of the mashuach milchamah, the Kohein who exhorts the Jewish People into battle. Cruz, the son of an evangelical Christian preacher, listened intently as the discussion progressed to the differences between a discretionary war of conquest (milchemes reshus) and an obligatory war (milchemes mitzvah). 
Later that morning, Cruz worked his newfound knowledge into his presentation on the challenges facing America today, saying there are times when waging war is a “mitzvah,” especially when standing up for one’s deeply held principles.
“That’s how he views his campaign,” Muzin says. “He views his fight for the presidency as a milchemes mitzvah to make sure we get the right person in the White House, and change the whole direction of the country.”
Mining for Support  
Just about 40 days and 40 nights remain until the February 1 Iowa caucuses — the first electoral test of the 2016 presidential campaign. The most recent polls at press time show the 44-year-old Cruz, a first-term senator from Texas, overtaking Donald Trump for first place in Iowa. Cruz — the son of a Cuban father and American mother, who was born in Calgary, Canada — has also climbed into the number two spot behind The Donald nationally. 
Advisors, including Muzin, who have been plotting the course of the Cruz presidential campaign long before he actually announced his candidacy on March 23 in a speech at Liberty Christian University in Lynchburg,  Virginia, are not at all surprised by his surge. 
The campaign brain trust initially carved the Republican Party into four brackets: the Tea Party, evangelicals, libertarians, and the establishment. They felt Cruz was the dominant player in the Tea Party, and a strong player in the evangelical and libertarian brackets. That alone, they reasoned, would be enough to put him over the top in the Republican primaries. 
The quick start enabled Cruz to build a local campaign organization in many key states where Cruz voters are dominant, including the early-to-vote states of Iowa, South Carolina, and Georgia. 
The Cruz campaign has also assembled a highly sophisticated data mining campaign, using “psychographic analysis” (dividing people into categories based on attitudes and values) to map out potential Cruz voters nationwide. 
“We know not only who our voters are, but who are the most persuadable,” Muzin says. “We developed 145 different versions of an e-mail that would appeal to different voters based on the issues that they care most about. If a person says he cares about the Second Amendment [the right to keep and bear arms], we look deeper into why they care about the Second Amendment. Is it because they are hunters, or is it because they are concerned about their security? Those are very different reasons, and our marketing to each group is different. So understanding what motivates our voters is tremendously valuable in our outreach.” 
To augment the data mining — and maybe to help finance it — the Cruz campaign persuaded more than 30,000 supporters to download the “Cruz Crew” mobile app. Subscribers are encouraged to reach out to like-minded potential supporters and are eligible to compete for points and prizes for providing new names.
“The feedback has been tremendous,” Muzin says. “Our online tools are able to engage grassroots volunteers around the country and make them part of the campaign. We have people raising money in small dollar amounts — $5, $10, $20 — that add up and come in on a monthly basis, allowing us to weather the ups and downs of the big-dollar fundraising cycle, and making sure we have the resources we need to win.” 
Opposition Gears Up 
The Cruz campaign will need to keep the coffers flush if they expect to advance and stay competitive in the later stages of the primaries, and, with mazel, the general election.
As of the end of the third quarter of 2015, Hillary Clinton enjoyed almost a three-to-one fundraising edge over Cruz, at $76.1 million to Cruz’s $26.4 million, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
Hillary’s campaign advisors have already suggested to their field personnel that they begin to prepare for a possible matchup with Ted Cruz in the November general election. National polls show Cruz is also bearing down on Hillary, with her lead over him down to a statistically insignificant three points. 
Hillary’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, recently told dozens of top Democratic donors at a California fundraiser that he saw Cruz as the likeliest Republican nominee, followed by Trump, and then Florida senator Marco Rubio. David Brock, a leading Democratic-affiliated fundraiser and researcher, predicted Cruz will win Iowa and South Carolina — two of the first three states to vote in February. Those victories would position Cruz to build a big lead on Super Tuesday, March 1, when 12 states hold primaries or caucuses. Seven of those 12 are either Southern states or “border states” that straddle the traditional Mason-Dixon divide. The large evangelical voter bases in those states hold a natural affinity for Cruz, who wears his religion on his sleeve. 
It’s something he learned from his father, Rafael, who fled Cuba at age 18 in 1957 shortly before Fidel Castro took power. Rafael landed in Austin, Texas, and was granted political asylum in the US after his graduation from the University of Texas at Austin in 1961. Rafael owned a seismic data business in the oil and gas industry, before retiring to begin a second career as a born-again Christian pastor.
Son Ted’s career took a different course entirely. Ted graduated from Princeton University in 1992, and then from Harvard Law School in 1995. 
When critics say that US senators such as Cruz and Rubio are less qualified to become president because they lack the executive experience of governors, Cruz likes to point to his stint from 1999 and 2003 as director of the Office of Policy Planning at the Federal Trade Commission and then his five-year term as Solicitor General of Texas from 2003 to 2008, where he managed a team of lawyers and supervised Supreme Court litigation for a major law firm. He argued nine cases before the nation’s highest court, defending US sovereignty against the UN and the World Court as well as defending the constitutionality of the Ten Commandments monument at the Texas State Capitol and the words “under G-d” in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Texas voters sent Cruz to Washington in the November 2012 election, where he has built a reputation as the Senate’s die-hard conservative firebrand, leading the fight to repeal Obamacare, and, in general, to oppose just about everything Obama stands for. 
Cruz has used his acerbic wit to brand Republicans who he thought were not tough enough in their opposition to President Obama as a “surrender caucus” and labeled Republicans who favor tougher gun control measures as “squishes.” Cruz is not afraid to take on his party leadership. 
In July, he broke political protocol by taking to the Senate floor to accuse Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–KY) of a “flat-out lie,” after McConnell broke a promise he made to Cruz not to allow a Senate vote to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. Cruz considers the bank a quintessential example of cronyism and corporate welfare. 
Cruz also took a leading role in shutting down the federal government in 2013 in the battle over extending the federal debt ceiling. This led Arizona senator John McCain, the GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee, to call Cruz and his Tea Party style compatriots “wacko birds” whose beliefs are not “reflective of the views of the majority of Republicans.”
Sensitivity Training 
If Cruz is indeed so divisive, what accounts for his growing popularity? Much has to do with the shift in political winds since Democrats took control of the White House in 2008.
In that respect, McCain, who lost to Obama by a two-to-one margin in the Electoral College in 2008, is actually less reflective of today’s Republican Party. 
Since 2010, Tea Party Republicans and members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus have parlayed anti-Washington fervor into Republican control of both chambers of Congress and 68 out of 98 partisan state legislative chambers — the highest number in the history of the party.
Ted Cruz fits right into this group. The nonpartisan voter education website Crowdpac assigned him a 9.5 conservative rating on a scale of 10, and the conservative Heritage Action for America gives him a perfect 100 percent score.
Cruz has also shone on the debate stage. While he hasn’t demonstrated command of the details of foreign policy issues like his Republican rival Marco Rubio, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Cruz has earned high marks for his ability to articulate his version of how, where, and to what extent America can project its military force to keep foreign threats far from US shores, without committing large contingents of US troops overseas for infinite periods of time. 
Perhaps his best performance came in the widely criticized October 28 debate, when Cruz and other candidates attacked CNBC moderators for questions that lacked substance. “The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media,” Cruz said. “This is not a cage match. And you look at the questions — ‘Donald Trump, are you a comic-book villain?’ ‘Ben Carson, can you do math?’ ‘John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?’ ‘Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign?’ ‘Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?’ How about talking about the substantive issues the people care about?” 
No Backing Down 
For Cruz, all of these positions were a matter of principle. 
“He’s a courageous person with strong moral beliefs,” Muzin says. “He doesn’t get easily dissuaded, he doesn’t back down, there’s no hurdle that’s insurmountable for him.” 
Even colleagues who disagree with Cruz respect his intelligence and integrity, says Muzin, who was director of coalitions for the House Republican Conference, the party caucus for Republicans, when he first met Cruz. “He wasn’t particularly popular among other Republicans even then,” Muzin says. At the same time, he points out, “but he didn’t run for the Senate to get along and be popular.”
The political savvy Muzin demonstrated with the House Republican Conference brought him to the attention of Chad Sweet, Cruz’s national campaign chairman, who recruited Muzin to join the senator’s staff in anticipation of a future presidential run. The courtship lasted for some six months, and included a few meetings with Cruz, his top advisors, and then his wife and children.
Muzin says the senator’s sensitivity made a big impression on him. For instance, Cruz has tweaked the campaign schedule so that Muzin can observe Shabbos comfortably, and even get home for weekends to spend more time with his family. Cruz also tries to take downtime to make sure he spends enough time with his own wife Heidi and their two young daughters, Caroline and Catherine, ages seven and four. Muzin says that’s a side of Cruz that his political colleagues never get to see up close.
On Israel, Muzin says Cruz has a real love for the Jewish People and identifies with their history and struggles. “His father was a refugee from Cuba,” Muzin says. “He talks all the time about how the Jews fled from Europe before, during, and after the war — not that he tries to compare what his father went through to what the Jews suffered — but he identifies with us.”
That’s important personally to Muzin, whom Mishpacha first profiled four years ago when he was working as a strategist and advisor to Representative Tim Scott, elected to the House from South Carolina in 2010 and who since has graduated to the US Senate. 
Born in Montreal, Muzin and his family moved to Toronto when he was five. He attended Yeshivas Ner Yisroel of Toronto and established a close relationship with both the former rosh yeshivah, Rabbi Gavriel Ginsburg ztz”l, and with the current rosh yeshivah, Rabbi Uri Mayerfeld. After high school, Muzin studied in the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia and attended Yeshiva University and the Albert Einstein Medical School, doing a shomer Shabbos residency in internal medicine in the Westchester Medical Center. In 2008, Muzin served as the medical advisor to John McCain’s presidential campaign before becoming Tim Scott’s political director. Muzin is credited with creating a winning campaign strategy for Scott, the first black Republican from South Carolina in more than 100 years.
Now a seasoned Washington political operative, with a track record of helping underdog candidates get elected, Muzin says the Cruz campaign is far more concerned with how the senator’s positions and actions play on Main Street than on J Street.
“We like to say in our campaign, America hates Washington and Washington hates Cruz, so that’s not a bad spot for us to be in. People of both parties are fed up with official Washington. They think that while people go to Washington with good intentions, and there are good people working in government, a lot of them become corrupted by the system and they lose their ability to effect real change.”
Should Cruz win the presidency, he will need every one of his first 100 days in office to repair relationships with Republican colleagues and build a coalition that can shake Washington out of its sloth. Much of his ability to lead the charge will be contingent, in large part, on whether Republicans maintain control of the Senate.
Republicans will have to defend 24 of the 34 US Senate seats up for reelection, compared to just 10 for the Democrats. The majority of the GOP incumbents are relative newcomers, first elected in 2010, and not veterans with “safe” seats. 
Reagan Was Crazy Too 
Asked for a preview of campaign strategy going forward, should Cruz win the Republican nomination, Muzin said the chief goal will be to remobilize and turn out the one million social conservative and evangelical voters who sat out the last two elections because they were turned off by more centrist Republican nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney. 
“This election is not going to be won by swing voters, who we find to be a rapidly diminishing section of the population, perhaps 7 percent,” Muzin says.
Swing voters can be defined in different ways, but the Cruz campaign describes them as voters who might vote Republican one year and Democratic the next. “In the last two elections, the Democrats turned out their machine. The Republicans did not,” Muzin says. “We believe this election will be won by the candidate who does the better job of turning out their core voters.”
Democratic strategist David Brock gave Politico a glimpse into how the Democratic campaign will attack Cruz, calling him “the second angriest man in the race” [presumably he meant second to Trump] and a “hyper-partisan who has aligned himself with the most extreme elements of the Republican Party.” 
If the Clinton campaign plans to paint Cruz as angry, hyper-partisan and extreme, what is Cruz’s pushback? 
“The first thing is, we will focus on the generational contrast,” Muzin says. “Ted Cruz will be 45 and Hillary will be 69 by Election Day. Beyond that, she is a creature of Washington. She’s been living in or near the White House since 1992. On her own admission, she hasn’t driven a car since the mid-’90s. Voters will associate her with everything about Washington. She is heavily tied to, and honed President Obama’s foreign policy on Iran, Russia, and Benghazi when she was the Secretary of State. She owns all of that. Ted Cruz is a fresh face. He’s been fighting for change in Washington and I think that even blue collar Democratic voters are going to come back to us as they did for Ronald Reagan.” 
When challenged over the fact that Ronald Reagan was considered far more engaging and likeable among his peers than Senator Cruz, Muzin contends it took Reagan a lot of time to translate his likability into voter support. “Ted’s going to have to take his message directly to the people,” he said, acknowledging the work that lies ahead. “The same thing happened in 1979, when Reagan first ran. People said Reagan is crazy, he’s a right-winger and he will start World War III with Russia. But then when he got up on the debate stage with Jimmy Carter, people said, I agree with that guy. So I think that Senator Cruz has the ability to turn out and inspire those people in a way that we haven’t seen since 1980.” 
Cruz Control 
But before Cruz can take on Hillary, his campaign managers are focused on a more immediate task: strategizing about ways to differentiate him from other Republican frontrunners and contenders, specifically Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, who like Cruz, is also a first-term senator and the son of a Cuban immigrant. 
Candidates such as Trump and Rubio are competing with Cruz for the same spotlight as DC reformers. The past two debates have veered off into one-on-one confrontations between Cruz and Rubio, in what Politico’s Mike Allen has called a battle between “Rubio’s smooth confidence versus Cruz’s shrill sureness.”
Muzin says that from the very beginning, the Cruz campaign made a strategic decision not to attack any other candidate personally. And that includes the front-runner, Donald Trump. For his part, Trump, who has mercilessly needled just about every other rival, largely keeps a respectful distance from Cruz.
Trump did break his silence on Cruz just before last week’s debate in Las Vegas, however, saying that Cruz acts on Capitol Hill “like a bit of a maniac.” In response, Cruz tweeted a one-line comeback on Twitter: “In honor of my friend @realDonaldTrump and good-hearted #Maniacs everywhere.”
Could it be that Cruz, a Princeton and Harvard graduate who didn’t pick up his Southern drawl either in Calgary or Cambridge, is intimidated by Trump, the son of a self-made New York real estate mogul? 
Muzin says it’s a matter of mutual respect, not fear or loathing.
“Trump has energized the voters,” Muzin says. “He’s brought millions of people who wouldn’t otherwise be paying attention at this stage in the process to watch the debates and get engaged. He’s framed a lot of issues that our voters care about, like immigration and the danger along our borders. And I think he brings an important voice to the party. Ultimately, we don’t think Donald will be the nominee, and that a lot of the people supporting him will turn to somebody who is against the establishment in a fight against the Washington cartel, and we think that the answer to that is Ted Cruz.”
Man of His Word 
As Cruz’s unofficial liaison to the Jewish community, Muzin believes strongly that Cruz is also the answer for politically conservative Jewish voters who think that Israel’s special relationship with the US has eroded in the past eight years under President Obama. 
Muzin noted that Cruz has said that on his first day in office, he will move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, he will tear up what he sees as the disastrous nuclear deal with Iran, and he will cut taxpayer funding to any university that adopts BDS measures. 
But that would require taking on the State Department and other entrenched interests in Washington, as well as doing battle with other world leaders who would surely oppose such moves from Washington. 
George W. Bush also promised to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and never did. It’s easy to say the right things on the campaign trail, but when you make it to the White House, there are tremendous forces that get in the way of change.
Still, Muzin is confident that Cruz will hold firm to his ideals. 
“When I think about the problems facing our country and our world, and specifically our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisrael, what we need is a strong president who will be as committed to his principles as Barack Obama was to his,” Muzin says. “Those who have watched Senator Cruz these past few years in Washington know that he is a man of his word.”
 

The World According to Cruz: Threats and Opportunities

If Ted Cruz is elected president, it’s likely that Victoria Coates will play a leading role on his foreign policy team. Coates serves as national security advisor to the Cruz campaign. Prior to that, she worked for DHR Holdings LLC, a foundation established by former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld to promote continued US engagement in world affairs in furtherance of US security interests and as an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C. 
For the pro-Israel crowd, her most interesting piece of work might be her May 2011 blog entry: “Erasing History: The Perils of the Pre-1967 Proposal.” In it, she criticized President Obama’s suggestion that the two-state solution could be achieved by returning the Jewish state to its 1967 borders, saying that would be comparable to asking Israel to erase 70 percent of its millennia-old history. 
Where does Ted Cruz hold on this, and other foreign policy issues affecting the US and Israel? Dr. Coates holds forth in an interview with Mishpacha.
If Ted Cruz becomes president, is the two-state solution dead? 
Senator Cruz has deliberately not weighed in on the issue of the two-state solution. He has said, and very much believes, this is a matter of Israeli sovereignty, so it’s an issue for Israelis to decide, and that the intense pressure from the Obama administration to insist on a two-state solution has been counterproductive and made both sides less likely to work toward whatever the ultimate solution might look like.
The Bush administration put its share of pressure on Israel to freeze building in Judea and Samaria. Would Senator Cruz’s policy differ?
Again, he thinks that is an Israeli issue. Israel is a sovereign nation, and it’s not the place of the United States to make dictates to Israel on that issue.
If Abu Mazen were to sit with a President Cruz tomorrow, what would Cruz say to Abu Mazen if he insisted on a withdrawal to the 1967 lines and a building freeze?
If Abbas wants to insist exclusively on a two-state solution and make absolutely no concessions going into a negotiation, then I think we probably are looking at limited success. Now, I do think the Palestinians have a great deal of opportunity ahead to take some steps that would make an agreeable solution to them far more likely. The recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state would be an important first step for them. And I think that would certainly make a Cruz administration far more amenable to helping the Palestinians.
American aid to the Palestinian Authority is a double-edged sword. Much of the aid from the international community to the PA is diverted to weapons and terror, yet even Israeli security authorities contend the State Department aid to develop the Palestinian police force has stabilized the West Bank and allowed Israel to reallocate their own security forces to areas where they need it more. Would Senator Cruz be willing to keep up security support for the Palestinian Authority, or would he apply a different litmus test altogether to aid to the Palestinian Authority?
It’s a very frustrating issue because on the one hand the American people are traditionally generous and want to help the Palestinians. And on the other hand, the notion that American taxpayer dollars are going for terrorist attacks on Israelis is simply intolerable. 
We’ve been very interested in that training program you brought up. We are very aware of the benefits to the Israelis and to the Palestinians, of having a viable police force that gives the Palestinians a sense of ownership, and being able to do things for themselves. So I think in the event that Abbas cannot control the terrorism issue, and won’t monitor how the funding is used, there would have to be some penalty set. But we would certainly be interested in talking to the Israelis about what they would want to do with the security program going forward.
In the debates, Senator Cruz has said he would crush ISIS. How does he plan to do this, especially in light of the fact that America is war-weary?
The funny thing about the war-weary American public is they don’t like 139 people gunned down in Paris, or 14 Americans in San Bernardino, or American citizens getting their heads chopped off. We haven’t seen any resistance to a serious plan that will get results. People are war-weary when it comes to one bomb here or one bomb there, or when you hear opposition to taking out ISIS oil facilities, because it will cause environmental damage, but I don’t see anyone opposed to a serious plan to get rid of ISIS.
What would that plan consist of specifically?
Something the senator has talked about regarding the first Gulf War and the campaign in Afghanistan was the use of heavily concerted precision bombing. Until now, Turkey has been very restrictive about our use of NATO’s Incirlik Air Base that has hindered, to some extent, what the Obama administration has accomplished with the limited air power it has applied. If the Turks continue to be difficult, we could also extend the runway at Erbil or use other assets to conduct a very heavy 30-day bombing campaign — that’s one element that could help. 
Number two would involve opening some direct channels to the Kurds in Syria and Iraq who have had some success fighting ISIS. That idea makes the Turks unhappy, but into each life some rain must fall. 
The third element would be to increase our already substantial investment in the Israeli, Egyptian, and Jordanian military. From our conversations with them, they are very aware of the threats facing them. The US could come to Egypt and Jordan and say we need ground troops, but we need this to be an Arab force, because sending a vast number of American forces to the region would be counterproductive. 
Between those three elements, we could come up with a significant plan, absent an American ground presence, except for some special forces. But the senator has said he wouldn’t rule anything out.

 

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