Ted Cruz, Rand Paul campaign launches illustrate vastly different media strategies

– The Washington Times – Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The varying extents to which technology and social media are changing some election strategies are reflected by the vast difference between Ted Cruz’s and Rand Paul’s official presidential nomination kickoffs.

“The new media are the game changer for Paul and Cruz,” said Steve Michael, Missouri-based campaign consultant. “Both are seen as younger and utilize the new media — Facebook, Twitter and others — that some in our party still struggle with, at least to their full ability.”

But social media — however good for spreading the candidate’s message and raising money — are not the holy grail for most campaigns, political pros warn.

“In party primaries, technology can amplify and codify that special candidate-voter personal connection, but for the successful candidate, it won’t replace it,” said David Paleologos, Suffolk University Political Research Center director.

Presidential historian Craig Shirley noted that “back in Reagan’s day, social media was six reporters drinking with a campaign’s press secretary at a hotel bar.” And, back then, candidates considered the national press indispensable to their campaigns from the moment of formal launch on to the happy or bitter end.

Mr. Cruz said Monday on the “Hannity” show that he will go over the heads of the press establishment and straight to the American people. At the same time, Mr. Cruz cast himself as the next-best thing to a President Reagan.

According to Mr. Shirley, in November 1979 Ronald Reagan unofficially announced his candidacy to millions of Americans in an interview with an unfriendly Tom Brokaw on NBC’s “Today” show in New York, and then made the official announcement at a ritzy Waldorf Astoria fundraising dinner that night, to which the press was invited.

 

 

The former California governor then immediately set out on an eight-day tour of the early primary and caucus states on a chartered plane large enough to carry the traveling press.

That expensive, big-plane, traveling-press, multistate announcement tradition has persisted for first-tier candidates and for candidates out to impress upon donors and the media that they are worthy of first-tier status. George H.W. Bush followed that example for the 1988 campaign, as did his son for 2000, Bob Dole for 1996, John McCain for 2008 and Mitt Romney in both 2008 and 2012.

By contrast, Mr. Cruz spent virtually nothing from his campaign war chest to formally initiate his candidacy, first by announcing on Twitter in the wee hours of Monday, before formally announcing later that morning on the campus of evangelical-oriented Liberty University in Virginia.

Fox News Channel televised his Liberty speech live and in full. It was at or near the top of the news cycle in most print and visual media on Monday and was all over Facebook, Twitter and other social network sites. Mr. Cruz then did an expense-free hour on Sean Hannity’s show Monday evening.

But in an inaugural campaign-tour sense, the Cruz launch began and ended at the university in Virginia, with no immediate follow-up trips to Iowa or New Hampshire.

Cruz lost something in not getting the local media coverage from his launch,” said veteran campaign pollster and strategist John McLaughlin. “GOP caucus and primary voters tend to be older, to get their news from TV and newspapers. The majority are tied to Facebook, not Twitter. WMUR matters.”

WMUR is the ABC-TV news outlet for New Hampshire.

In total contrast, Mr. Paul will pay rental for a private jet when he begins his five-day, five-state campaign launch officially in his home state on April 7. He will then fly directly to New Hampshire, South Carolina, Iowa and end up in Nevada on April 11.

 

He too may get live Fox News coverage of his whole campaign launch speech in Louisville, Kentucky. He will also get something else that many campaign strategists regard as just as important as national news coverage.

In each of the four early caucus and primary states he visits, voters in those states will see him pictured in diners, on campuses and at malls with which they are familiar. The voters will, according to campaign experts in both political parties, interpret the visit as an indication that he cares about their state, their problems, their aspirations and, most of all, their vote.

No one can know yet who made the wiser decision — Mr. Cruz, who did it on the cheap with a big one-day splash, or Mr. Paul, who plans to do it more expensively as a five-day, five-state tour, but in a more intimate manner with the voters who count.

Historically, it’s likely that if someone wins both South Carolina and either New Hampshire or Iowa, he will go on to win the GOP nomination.

Mr. Paul will get the benefit of national coverage on his first day, less so on subsequent days perhaps, but he will get the vital local coverage from in-state press that campaign professionals say will presumably matter most on caucus or primary day come Feb. 2016.

Mr. Paul also has legions of loyalists from his father Ron’s presidential runs, who will announce on social media dozens of fundraising events in cities and towns around the country during his inaugural campaign tour.

The one thing both Mr. Cruz and Mr. Paul seem likely to avoid, at least at this stage, is using their articulate, highly political fathers as surrogates on social media, with traditional media or at campaign venues.

Former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul won the Libertarian Party presidential nomination and then bid to be the GOP standard-bearer in 2008 and 2012, but was judged by some of his own supporters as conveying the image to voters of someone who is too ideologically rigid. In that sense, the younger Mr. Paul has set out to portray himself as equally committed to limited government but less of a finger-wagger than his dad, who has not so far appeared much with or campaigned for his son.

Mr. Cruz’s father, Cuban-born evangelical pastor Raphael Cruz, similarly doesn’t campaign with his senator son but is often cited by him to establish his Hispanic bona fides and his appreciation for immigrants.

But on Monday evening, in his appearance with Mr. Hannity, neither the senator nor the talk-show host made mention of Rafael Cruz’s former association with Fidel Castro. As a young Cuban in the 1950s, Rafael first fought with the Castro forces against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Rafael had to flee Batista’s Cuba and eventually turned against the Castro revolution as it became clear it was a communist regime in the making.

More than a year ago, the elder Mr. Cruz, a militant anti-communist, acknowledged to The Washington Times that he was wrong to have supported the Castro revolution.

The question of fathers as assets or liabilities aside, the best short-term measure for the effectiveness of the candidates’ launches is how each will poll in weeks to follow.

“Keep in mind that primary voters expect personal attention and want to be asked for their vote and support personally,” Mr. Paleologos said. “I’m not saying that it won’t change eventually, but there are generations of likely voters conditioned to hometown courtship. [If] you don’t show up, someone else captures their imagination and support. In fact, not showing up is seen as a snub.”

Mr. Paleologos said that in the GOP primary, where more “supervoters are older, you don’t ignore the select group of Iowa and New Hampshire voters who could help you launch your national aspirations.”

Still, Mr. Cruz got the jump on what is expected to be a crowd of GOP presidential hopefuls looking for small and large donors and small and large news outlets to get out their message. And while the candidate who announced first hasn’t won the nomination in recent memory, the Cruz team and other campaign analysts say the times may be a-changing.

Cruz is doing it the right way, but he’ll really need to touch a lot of people in person, by hand, and look a lot of people in the eyes,” said Chris Abraham, a social media marketing consultant.