Cruz Already Targeting March Voting States

Dec 20, 2015
Originally published on December 21, 2015 1:55 pm
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Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Late December is upon us. And that means a big day is coming, the first nominating contest in the presidential primary cycle. Beginning with Iowa, voters in four states go to the polls in February, and many candidates are spending a lot of time there. But as NPR's Sarah McCammon reports, Texas Senator Ted Cruz is focusing his energy elsewhere this week, with an eye on the month of March.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Ted Cruz says his presidential campaign is ready for the early Republican primaries coming up in February. But he's not stopping there.

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TED CRUZ: But then 10 days after South Carolina, boom, it's Super Tuesday. It's the so-called SCC primary.

MCCAMMON: That's March 1, when several states, many of them southern, hold their nominating contests. Near Mobile, Ala. yesterday, the Texas senator told a crowd gathered in a civic center that he's ready for March.

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CRUZ: Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas.

MCCAMMON: To go into March with momentum, Cruz will need to solidify his lead in Iowa, where his strong organization and popularity with evangelicals have helped him move ahead of Donald Trump in recent polls. And he has work to do everywhere else.

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CRUZ: God bless the Commonwealth of Virginia.

MCCAMMON: At a church near Richmond, Va. on Friday, Cruz fired up the crowd with his standard stump speech. He promised to investigate Planned Parenthood, rescind President Obama's executive orders and fight terrorism. Along the way this holiday season, he's been getting support from some big names.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Santa Claus.

MCCAMMON: We couldn't verify who Santa is endorsing in the presidential election, but he's been at each stop, like this one in Alabama, posing for pictures with kids.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Ho, ho, ho...

MCCAMMON: While campaign workers collect their parents' contact information. Jack Rostas came from Kentucky to see Cruz with his wife and 11-month-old son. He keeps a ranking of the Republican candidates on his iPhone.

JACK ROSTAS: Number one, Carson. Number one, Cruz. Ron Paul I'm thrilled about. I think Carly Fiorina - I think she would be good.

MCCAMMON: Rostas put everyone from Donald Trump to Jeb Bush near the bottom of that list. He says he's leaning toward Cruz. The Cruz campaign is trying to cement the support of voters like Rostas and encourage them to volunteer to knock on doors or make phone calls for Cruz. Spokeswoman Catherine Frazier says they're using everything from Santa to smartphone apps to build a network of grassroots supporters in key states.

CATHERINE FRAZIER: We want to be able to follow up with them and to keep them engaged in what's going on with our campaign.

MCCAMMON: The campaign's grassroots efforts may be working. Cruz made a similar swing in August, and he's been drawing big crowds in recent days. With so many candidates vying for the GOP nomination and so many primaries in March, Frazier says it's important to play the long game.

FRAZIER: While we are very confident that we can win Iowa, we know that it's going to take more than that. We are going to have to perform well in these March 1 Super Tuesday states and even beyond.

MCCAMMON: But first, Cruz he needs to get through February and find a way to catch up to Donald Trump in the other early states, where Trump's been out in front for months. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Mobile Ala. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.