PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Sen. Ted Cruz stood on a step stool in a bar here, framed Boston sports photos to his left and a guy drinking a bottle of beer to his right, and went on and on about the intricacies of political strategy.
“How is the general [election] going to play out? Let me answer it in two ways,” Cruz said, launching into an answer about how political consultants advise candidates to run to the “mushy middle” and how various voter blocs didn’t cast ballots in the past few elections.
More than any other candidate in the Republican field, Cruz is at his heart a strategist. He becomes animated when he talks about the electoral calendar. He is comfortable down in the weeds of arcane electoral strategy. He waxes poetic on nitty-gritty voter data.
The habit also has served a strategic purpose for Cruz — particularly when he was still establishing himself as a formidable contender for the Republican nomination. Cruz wanted to signal to the world not only what he stood for as a conservative Christian — but that he had the campaign structure and smarts to actually win. In past Republican primaries, that’s been an unusual concept for evangelical candidates, whose campaigns have typically fizzled after strong wins in Iowa because neither the strategy nor the money were in place to sustain the operation.
Cruz has both.
He sometimes gives granular readings of the Constitution. He thinks in arguments and builds their foundation brick by brick. He likes to play chess and poker. And his campaign has had its plan ready since day one — running a national campaign as a religious conservative focused on the very long game of winning delegates.
Cruz is often thinking “not just one and two, but three, four, five, six, seven and eight steps ahead … he plays that role often,” said Jason Johnson, a Cruz campaign strategist.
And he has been that way for a very long time.
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