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Super PACs to Cruz: Focus on "Wedge Issues"

Super PACs backing U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, believe the best way for a Republican to win the White House is to focus on so-called wedge issues.

Ted Cruz at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa on June 27, 2015.

The super PACs supporting U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, believe he should focus on so-called wedge issues as he carves an unflinchingly conservative path to the White House, according to a presentation that surfaced late Thursday.

The strategy would not be a surprising approach for Cruz, who has made clear he believes the way to win the presidency is by standing firm on a host of issues that excite the GOP base. But the presentation, which could be found on the website of the Keep the Promise super PACs, offers the most revealing look yet at how — and why — Cruz's supporters believe he can achieve that goal.

The 51-slide pitch — titled "Can He Win?" — is particularly harsh on 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, whom it calls a "terrible candidate with a terrible campaign." Part of Romney's problem, according to the presentation, is that he had "NO WEDGE OR MAGNET ISSUE" to drive up Republican turnout against President Obama.

Cruz, on the other hand, ranks as the Republican Party's best shot at exploiting wedge issues against presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, according to the super PACs. The presentation lists five issues on which it suggests Cruz would be the most competitive GOP nominee in a general-election matchup with Clinton: "Common Core," "Immigration," "Future Not Past," "National Security" and "Foreign Money." 

In unambiguous terms, the presentation identifies former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as Clinton's weakest potential opponent on wedge issues. "The Establishment Never Learns," reads the title of one slide, followed by text that says, "For 2016 they have chosen, Jeb Bush."

A spokesman for the super PACs, treasurer Dathan Voelter, did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Thursday. The presentation, which was first reported by CNN then obtained by The Texas Tribune, was last modified Sunday, according to information on the PowerPoint file, which identified a "Chris Sipes" as the author. 

One plausible explanation for the presentation is to telegraph strategy to Cruz's official campaign, which cannot coordinate with the super PACs under federal law. In recent election cycles, campaigns and super PACs have gained notoriety for stretching the boundaries of that rule. 

The presentation itself reads like an appeal to pro-Cruz donors, who have already given just under $38 million to the four super PACs supporting him. To that end, the presentation confirms what has long been rumored: Cruz is receiving support from the three of the top 10 donors to conservative super PACs in 2012. They are New York hedge-fund manager Robert Mercer, Boston investor John Childs and Houston Texans owner Robert McNair. 

While the presentation echoes many Cruz talking points — evangelicals are not turning out, for example — it does seem to prod Cruz to focus more on Hispanic voters, something he and his campaign have not signaled is a top priority. Under a slide titled "Republican Must Do's for 2016," the presentation says the party must "perform better with Latino voters in Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada." 

The presentation also directs attention to the results of a May survey that portray Cruz as a well-known candidate who ranks toward the top of the field in "potential growth." The only two candidates ahead of him in that category of the poll are Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. 

The primary calendar, which is "really different," is also helping Cruz, according to the presentation. The super PACs argue the calendar favors southern states and conservative voters more than usual, a perfect mix for Cruz to capitalize on wedge issues.

His campaign's assets, meanwhile, are listed as "Small Dollar Donors," "Large Super PAC," "Social Media Followers," "Grassroots Support" and "Sophisticated Data Analysis." Unsurprisingly, the presentation indicates Cruz's campaign beats five other campaigns listed on one slide: those of Bush, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rubio and Walker. 

Despite the harsh words for Bush, the super PACs say they plan to roll out a "positive campaign" around the first GOP presidential debate, which is scheduled for Aug. 6 in Ohio. In the meantime, the presentation suggests donors should do anything but retreat, saying "fundraising success breeds fundraising success." 

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