On Monday night, the Republican Party gave the first victory of 2016 to the first Hispanic candidate for president of the United States, Ted Cruz.
Sen. Cruz won for many reasons: his outsider appeal, disciplined message, and sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation. But after two trips to Iowa to volunteer for Cruz, I noticed something else about the Cruz campaign that probably made a difference.
I’ve worked on many campaigns. I started with George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign when I was 14, and I’ve volunteered at the grassroots level every year since. A wise mentor once told me the kind of organization a leader builds says a lot about him.
There was something different about the Cruz campaign, including many signs of kindness and courage:
- – Cruz’s Urbandale headquarters were like many campaign headquarters – office space in a suburban strip mall. Streams of volunteers came in to sit in rows of phone bank tables, and went out with literature to canvass neighborhoods door-to-door. Staff bustled in and out of small offices. But people were relatively calm and quiet. There was orderliness.
- – Unlike every other campaign I had worked on, the Cruz operation encouraged volunteers to engage. Plainly typed signs all around the phone bank said, please flag someone down if someone has you stumped with a Cruz question – we want to earn as many supporters as possible! This communicated not only a commitment to discipline, but also to rational persuasion and fearless confidence that our cause is what the voters are looking for.
- – One of the offices had been cleared of desks and chairs and instead contained colorful foam mats, toy blocks, and coloring books. I saw four or five kids putting together puzzles or coloring quietly while a mother made calls from a folding chair. Someone told me the kids’ playroom was Heidi Cruz’s idea. Families and children were welcome.
- – After an hour on the phones, I noticed a frizzy-haired teenager emerge from the kitchenette with an old fashioned wooden tray of coffee, cream, and cups, walking quietly between the tables offering volunteers warm refreshment. Later, a middle-aged woman walked around gathering up empty cups and crumpled bottles of water. Every hour or so, another pair of volunteers followed suit, coffee tray then clean up.
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