Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz seemed poised for victory in the Iowa caucuses over most of the past month but has suffered tough counterattacks from critics within his party at the worst possible time for him.
As often happens in presidential politics, Cruz's difficulties arose from rivals in his own party.
Setbacks cascaded just as he began leading several polls beginning in December for the first national contest, the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1.
Cruz's momentum in Iowa is fueled by its strong base of evangelical Christians and tea party enthusiasts, along with his other logistical advantages over rivals. These include Cruz's unusually strong and controversial initiative to use data harvested from Facebook users to target them with pinpoint precision.
But a cascade pf sudden attacks during recent days are hurting Cruz and could doom his candidacy because of the primary calendar, which magnifies the importance of a few states in ways especially harmful to the Texas senator if he slips in Iowa.
In fact, the Trump ascendancy in recent days arguably represents the most astonishing reversal of fortune among presidential candidates in modern history during a two-week period.
Today's column provides an overview of these developments, which are explored more fully in a series to be published here over the next few days. Topics include:
- GOP fears of a Trump nomination, illustrated by establishment attack on Trump during the Jan. 12 party-vetted GOP reply to President Obama's State of the Union address;
- Cruz's growing strength illustrated by his controversial data mining operation and rejection of Trump's overture to join a Trump-led GOP ticket next fall;
- Trump's challenge to the eligibility of the Canadian-born Cruz to be presidency under the Constitution's requirement of "natural born" citizenship;
- Revelation that Cruz received $1.2 million in loans from Goldman Sachs and Citibank that he failed to report as funding for his successful campaign that year for a U.S. senate seat for Texas;
- Opposition to Cruz from GOP leaders, including Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, former GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole, and others.
Campaign Calendar: Bad Timing for Cruz
As an overview for today's introduction to this series:
Cruz is popular with religious evangelical and tea party voters heavily represented in Iowa caucuses.
Funded by billionaire Robert Mercer, Cruz also holds a big and seldom reported advantage in Iowa because he has used controversial, state-of-the-art data mining techniques. These use the social media activity of Americans without their knowledge to assemble pinpoint profiles. This enables targeted political advertising and get-out-the-vote mechanics that are particularly valuable in the time-consuming Iowa caucuses, many of which occur in rural areas and chilly weather.
The Guardian newspaper in London reported on the campaign last month in an exclusive report: Ted Cruz using firm that harvested data on millions of unwitting Facebook users. The news report by Harry Davies was subtitled Documents reveal donor-funded US startup embedded in Republican’s campaign paid UK university academics to collect psychological profiles on potential voters. It began:
Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign is using psychological data based on research spanning tens of millions of Facebook users, harvested largely without their permission, to boost his surging White House run and gain an edge over Donald Trump and other Republican rivals, the Guardian can reveal.
A little-known data company, now embedded within Cruz’s campaign and indirectly financed by his primary billionaire benefactor, paid researchers at Cambridge University to gather detailed psychological profiles about the US electorate using a massive pool of mainly unwitting US Facebook users built with an online survey.
As part of an aggressive new voter-targeting operation, Cambridge Analytica – financially supported by reclusive hedge fund magnate and leading Republican donor Robert Mercer – is now using so-called “psychographic profiles” of US citizens in order to help win Cruz votes, despite earlier concerns and red flags from potential survey-takers.
But Cruz has angered many establishment Republicans in the Senate and elsewhere who are eager to undercut him. And even if each such major attack or other obstacle for Cruz takes only a percentage point or so the total damage would likely tip the result to Trump.
If Cruz loses or only narrowly wins Iowa after the high expectations early this month he will face a hard time regaining traction.
That's because Cruz is polling so far behind Trump and centrist candidates in New Hampshire, the first primary state. Trump polls well also in South Carolina. Then the caucus state of Nevada is likely to welcome Trump, a hotel and casino operator, far more than Cruz with his evangelical crusading and finger-pointing.
Thus, February is likely to prove a devastating month for Cruz unless he wins big in Iowa. Even then his campaign may be mortally wounded before elections begin in more friendly Southern and rural states during March.
Related News Coverage
Real Clear Politics, Cruz's Iowa Gut Punch, Caitlin Huey-Burns, Jan. 20, 2016. Ted Cruz suffered a one-two gut punch Tuesday in Iowa, a state considered friendly territory for the Texas senator. While Cruz can spin the Branstad blow into a reinforcement of his message, the Palin snub could burn a little.
Washington Post, Cruz campaign credits psychological data and analytics for its rising success, Tom Hamburger, Dec. 13, 2015. As Cecil Stinemetz walked up to a gray clapboard house in suburban Des Moines last week wearing his “Cruz 2016” cap, a program on his iPhone was determining what kind of person would answer the door. Would she be a “relaxed leader”? A “temperamental conservative”? Maybe even a “true believer”? The outreach is part of a months-long effort by the Cruz campaign to profile and target potential supporters, an approach that campaign officials believe has helped propel the senator from Texas to the top tier among Republican presidential candidates in many states, including Iowa, where he is in first place, according to two recent polls. It’s also a multimillion-dollar bet that such efforts still matter in an age of pop-culture personalities and social-media messaging.
Guardian, Ted Cruz using firm that harvested data on millions of unwitting Facebook users, Harry Davies, Dec. 11, 2015. Exclusive: Documents reveal donor-funded US startup embedded in Republican’s campaign paid UK university academics to collect psychological profiles on potential voters.
Documents seen by the Guardian have uncovered longstanding ethical and privacy issues about the way academics hoovered up personal data by accessing a vast set of US Facebook profiles, in order to build sophisticated models of users’ personalities without their knowledge. In the race to advance data-driven electioneering strategies pioneered by successive Obama campaigns, Cruz has turned to Cambridge Analytica for its unparalleled offering of psychological data based on a treasure trove of Facebook “likes,” allowing it to match individuals’ traits with existing voter datasets, such as who owned a gun.
Analysis of Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings shows Cruz’s campaign has paid Cambridge Analytica at least $750,000 this year. The “behavioral microtargeting” company has also received around $2.5m over the past two years from conservative Super PACs to which Mercer or members of his family have donated. In an interview with the Guardian last month, Cruz said his funding and outreach apparatus “is very much the Obama model – a data-driven, grassroots-driven campaign – and it is a reason why our campaign is steadily gathering strength”. Cruz is increasingly seen as a leading Republican contender, uniting factions within the party beyond his evangelical and Tea Party base.
In Iowa – the first state to vote in the presidential primary, in less than two months – the outspoken Texas senator dethroned Trump in a poll for the first time this week as the mogul became ensnared in yet more controversy.
Catching Our Attention on Other Presidential, Media & Integrity Issues
WLIS-AM, WMRD-AM and streaming worldwide, Host Phil Mikan interviews Washington author/reporter Andrew Kreig on the presidential race for the show's full hour, Jan. 21, 2016. News pegs: Cruz Faces Campaign Ruin Over His Canadian Birth, Wall Street Loans. Also, what do the polls portend? Latest results from RealClearPolitics.
OpEdNews, The 21st Century: An Era Of Fraud, Paul Craig Roberts, Jan. 18, 2016. In the last years of the 20th century, fraud entered US foreign policy in a new way. On false pretenses, Washington dismantled Yugoslavia and Serbia in order to advance an undeclared agenda. In the 21st century this fraud multiplied many times. Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Libya were destroyed, and Iran and Syria would also have been destroyed if the President of Russia had not prevented it.
As a former professor of economics, Wall Street Journal editor and Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy, I am astonished at the corruption that rules in the financial sector, the Treasury, the financial regulatory agencies, and the Federal Reserve. In my day, there would have been indictments and prison sentences of bankers and high government officials. Even the government’s statistical agencies have been corrupted. The official unemployment rate is 5%, but no one can find a job. How can the unemployment rate be 5% when half of 25-year olds are living with relatives because they cannot afford an independent existence?
Washington Post, The Koch brothers’ impact on the American political system, Tom Hamburger Jan. 15, 2016. Tom Hamburger is a Washington Post reporter covering the intersection of money and politics. To understand the motives of the conservative billionaire Koch brothers, look to their childhood — and what a rigid, harrowing youth it was, according to a new book by New Yorker writer Jane Mayer. In Dark Money, Mayer relies on interviews and previously undisclosed documents to trace a family fortune that was built in part on business ties with the Third Reich, and an early childhood colored by a fearsome German governess and a strict, demanding father who favored corporal punishment.
She obtained a confidential history of Charles Koch’s effort to shape American politics that was commissioned by his brother Bill. The report, written by George Mason University historian Clayton Coppin, suggested that Charles has “a hatred of the government so intense that it could only be understood as an extension of childhood conflicts with authority.”
Playing a potentially formative role, Mayer suggests, was a governess hired for the eldest Koch sons, Charles and Frederick, who have since gone separate ways. Frederick has pursued his interest in the arts and philanthropy in New York City while Charles has run Wichita-based Koch Industries, one of the world’s largest privately held corporations.
The boys’ father, Fred Koch, cared about his sons, Mayer writes, but could be a terrifying disciplinarian. He built the family fortune through early deals in Stalin’s Russia and, Mayer reveals for the first time, through business relationships in Nazi Germany. Fred was involved in building Germany’s third-largest oil refinery, a project Mayer says was encouraged personally by Hitler.
The book quotes letters Koch wrote as late as 1938 favorably comparing Germany’s work ethic with what he saw as the indolent attitude in the United States after the New Deal. When the United States entered World War II in 1941, Mayer reports, Fred Koch sought to enlist in the U.S. military but was instructed instead to use his engineering skill to develop high-octane fuel for U.S. warplanes. In Allied bombing raids in 1944, American B-17s finally destroyed the Hamburg refinery that he helped build, Mayer writes.Stone Zone, The MSM sure does not want to talk about Bill Clinton’s rapes & violent sex assaults or Hillary’s criminal terror campaigns, Roger Stone and Robert Morrow (co-authors The Clintons War Against Women), Jan. 6, 2016. Washington Post Debunked; CNN's Don Lemon Exposed. The Clintons are criminals and this has nothing to do with any consensual oral sex that Bill had with Monica Lewinsky, martial infidelity or adultery. Like Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton is a sexual predator -- and Hillary used strong-arm tactics to run the cover up. In fact, Hillary is an accessory after the fact in all of her husband’s sex crimes. The MainStream Media is trying to deflect this story to be about Bill's cheating rather than what it is: rape, intimidation and a cover-up run by Hillary.
Politico, Clinton Library set to release Donald Trump records, Josh Gerstein, Jan. 20, 2016. President Bill Clinton's presidential library is set to make public nearly 500 pages of records pertaining to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, according to an official notice from the National Archives. The records will detail the Clinton White House's interactions with Trump and his Trump Organization, as well as how Clinton aides prepared to field questions about Trump's entry into the 2000 presidential race, where he sought the nomination of the Reform Party for a few months before dropping out.