The Cruz threat

“There’s no question he’s setting the pace right now,” Laudner says. “He’s the hard act to follow. He’s speaking the language that the base uses when they’re chatting with each other at events or huddling at high-school football games. He channels the anger and frustration that conservatives have not only with President Obama, but also with the Republican establishment. His ability to seize that undercurrent and connect with those voters has elevated him. Now, in Iowa, he hasn’t crowded out Santorum or Rand Paul, who have their own bases of support, but he has muted the discussion, for example, about Scott Walker and Paul Ryan.”

If Cruz continues his frenetic rise through the conservative ranks, he may be the biggest threat yet to the presidential hopes of Santorum, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Kentucky’s Paul, and Wisconsin’s Walker and Ryan — all of whom at one time or another have been conservative stars and been seen as having a path, however narrow, to the nomination from the party’s right. “He’s already gaining support among the people who supported Santorum, who like Rand Paul, and who supported Mike Huckabee five years ago,” says Bob Vander Plaats, an influential Iowa evangelical leader who hosted Cruz at a recent weekend summit in Ames, Iowa. “It’s startling, but it’s happening.”…

“It’s the same model they used for Cruz in Texas,” says a Republican insider who is close to Cruz’s aides. “They make it seem like a ragtag, outsider thing, when it’s really a tightly run ship. But they’re smart with how they handle the unpaid volunteers; they’re sharp at keeping people involved and feeling like they’re part of something.” At the Vander Plaats gathering, Cruz hinted at his low-key but humming machine when he told attendees to text the word “growth” to his political-action committee, which will then hold on to those numbers for a future project — whatever that may be.