Sometimes it pays to go first. Ted Cruz jumped into the official presidential race first among serious contenders, eschewing the usual “exploratory committee” route to go directly into campaign mode. The gamble appears to have worked, as Cruz-affiliated super-PACs hauled in a record first-week avalanche of donations totaling $31 million, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin:
Ted Cruz’s presidential effort is getting into the shock-and-awe fundraising business.
An associate of the Texas senator, a recently announced presidential candidate, tells Bloomberg that a cluster of affiliated super-political action committees was formed only this week, and among them they are expected to have $31 million in the bank by Friday.
Even in the context of a presidential campaign cycle in which the major party nominees are expected to raise more than $1.5 billion, Cruz’s haul is eye-popping, one that instantly raises the stakes in the Republican fundraising contest.
Of course, Cruz tailored his launch for precisely this narrative. Since no one else had gotten into the race yet, Cruz had the first quarter disclosures pretty much all to himself, as long as he announced before the end of March. That still presented some risk — after all, a goose egg would have looked pretty bad — but even a substandard first week could easily have been explained by the early stage of the primaries, the short spin-up time, and so on. The downside on this risk was rather small.
The upside, though, was huge. As a first-term US Senator — indeed, in the first term of his only elective office — Cruz has to work harder to convince people that he can make a serious case for the presidency. Rand Paul has an even bigger problem along these lines, having done little in politics before winning his first election ever in 2010; Marco Rubio also has to make the case, but he has been speaker of the Florida House and has a longer record in electoral politics. Cruz can point to his record in the Bush administration (Associate Deputy Attorney General and policy director at the FTC) and as Solicitor General for Texas. Still, Cruz will have to contend against sitting and former governors who have a lot more executive experience, some of whom have impressive track records in both elections and conservative accomplishments apart from ideological battles.
Cruz needed the big splash to set himself apart. Plus, this leak to Halperin has the effect of stealing some thunder from Rand Paul’s announcement yesterday. If nothing else, it shows that Cruz knows how to operate tactically in the electoral environment, and that his single election experience may not be as big a concern as one might otherwise think. Not bad for a fortnight’s work.