U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is stepping up his travel for state Republicans amid concerns about GOP turnout in November.
Cruz is set to attend a trio of events next week in North Texas aimed at getting out the vote, particularly among conservatives who have long made up his base. Cruz will appear with U.S. Rep. Roger Williams of Austin on Wednesday night in Burleson, followed by an event Thursday afternoon for the Dallas County GOP and another in the evening for the Denton County GOP with U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess of Lewisville.
The string of appearances comes as Cruz increases his focus on one of his main political goals of late: ensuring that conservative turnout does not slip after a presidential race that left many such voters disillusioned. Cruz himself has grappled with the choice in November, declining to endorse his party’s nominee, Donald Trump, until last month.
Cruz’s get-out-the-vote efforts began in earnest earlier this month, when he visited a phone bank for the Tarrant County Republican Party. Speaking with reporters at the party’s headquarters in Fort Worth, he reiterated a worry about depressed turnout among “strong conservatives,” particularly in large urban counties like Tarrant, Dallas and Harris.
“That could wreak real damage, particularly in down-ticket races — in state legislative races, in judicial races, in county races,” Cruz said. “I don’t want to see that happen, so I’m doing everything I can to encourage conservatives” to vote.
In the final weeks before the November election, Houston-area supporters of Donald Trump say they feel let down and abandoned by both the Republican Party and the nominee’s campaign.
Still, they persevere to get out the vote for their candidate, standing on street corners, knocking on doors without the traditional list of homes to target and handing out home-printed fliers.
“We have gotten no guidance,” said Jeana Blackford, a local leader of pro-Trump activists. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and we’ve never seen this. It’s absurd.”
The Republican parties of Texas and Harris County said they were running get-out-the-vote efforts and that they support all candidates on the ballot equally, but frustrated local Trump supporters allege the party is turning its back on its presidential nominee and his millions of followers.
The sentiment mirrors events unfolding nationally, in which a schism between the Trump campaign and the GOP is widening as the nominee berates top party members and Republican officials rescind their support of his candidacy.
“We get calls all the time from people saying, ‘the party does not support him (Trump),’ ” said Ben McPhaul, executive director of the Harris County Republican Party. “Maybe they get that perception from the national party, though I’m not sure that’s true. But we’re always quick to say we support every candidate on the ticket and we support them all equally.”
In a typical election, state and local parties generally focus on state and local candidates and do not carry a lot of weight supporting the presidential nominee, said University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus.
Promotion of the presidential candidate isusually is left largely to the national party and the candidate’s campaign.
The Trump campaign, however, has been mostly absent in Texas. Its Houston office opened for a few months in the run-up to the March primary, then closed in the summer, Blackford said. She said local Trump supporters did not trust the Trump campaign staff, but she stressed that Trump himself had not known about the “chaos and disorganization” in his staff until it was too late.
Blackford, a 43-year-old stay-at-home mom and veteran campaign worker who traveled to other states for Trump in the primaries, said she has about 350 people in the Houston area eager to get to work, but they have been given no direction.
By comparison, the Hillary Clinton campaign has six Texas offices. Stephen Abrams Harrison, a volunteer in the Houston headquarters, said the campaign supplies the office with computers, as well as buttons and yard signs. Volunteers sit in on weekly conference calls with the board of state directors.
Fed up Trump supporters in September formed a political action committee based in Waxahachie, called Make America Safe Again, a merger of existing grass-roots organizations. Board member Stephani Scruggs said the PAC was formed to make up for what they perceived as the Republican National Committee’s abandonment of Trump’s candidacy.
The group posted a news release Thursday titled, “Pro-Trump super PAC implements own ground game amid rumors of RNC betrayal.”
See here and here for previous examples. It’s hard to know how much to make of this, but I keep coming back to the premise that Republicans really haven’t had to do much if any campaigning in this state in Presidential years in a long time. There are downballot races, like the perpetual struggle in CD23, that they work on, and it’s very different in the off years when control of state government is at stake, but this just feels different, and it makes me wonder if the data they’re seeing confirms or even amplifies the bits of evidence we have that this will not be a typical year for them. I hesitate to put any quantifiers on this, but with the polls being what they are and the campaign activity being what it is, it’s hard not to feel like we’re in some very unfamiliar territory, and that we may wake up on November 9 with a very different set of expectations going forward. At the very least, you have to wonder if this feeling by the Trump partisans that they’re being ignored will put a damper on things for the GOP in 2018. If their enthusiasm in 2018 is down to the point where we’d be looking at 2006 levels of turnout, that opens up a whole lot of possibilities for the Democrats. That’s getting way ahead of ourselves here, but stick that thought in your back pocket and we’ll look at it again in the aftermath.