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Heidi Cruz Tries to Close Her Biggest Deal: Making Ted Cruz President

While Sen. Ted Cruz relishes fighting with Democrats and Republicans; his wife, Heidi Cruz, is quick with a hug. He tries to galvanize voters; she spends hours on the phone, trying to persuade them to max out their donations.

By Katie Zezima, The Washington Post
Texas Republican candidate for US Senate, Ted Cruz, with daughter with his family, Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at the JW Marriott hotel in Houston, Texas.

PHOENIX — Heidi Cruz, investment banker and political spouse, stood outside a ballroom here, shaking hands and making small talk, working to close her most ambitious deal yet: getting her husband elected president.

Cruz, 43, is a potent weapon for the presidential campaign of her husband, Sen. Ted Cruz. He relishes fighting with Democrats and Republicans; she is quick with a hug. He tries to galvanize voters; she spends hours on the phone, trying to persuade them to max out their donations.

"Stylistically, I can soften him a little bit," Cruz, clad in navy leggings and black flats, Roberto Cavalli sunglasses perched atop her blond hair, said in an interview while she was being driven to the airport.

"Ted is great one-on-one. He's great on stage, and he's great in a small group, but he's a little bit shy. And I've often, in groups, kind of led the way. I have a warm personality. I love people," she said.

Her disposition will be on display more and more in the coming months as she holds her own campaign events, including one in Las Vegas on Monday and multiple stops in New Hampshire this coming weekend. She will continue to occasionally accompany her husband around the country, sometimes with their daughters, ages 7 and 4.

Although she is publicly trying to show her husband in a different light and helping him appeal to women, behind the scenes she is putting her business and political acumen to work.

Cruz’s hard-charging career is an anomaly among the spouses of Republican presidential candidates; her analog is more Hillary Rodham Clinton than Ann Romney. She is on leave from her job as a managing director of Goldman Sachs in Houston. A graduate of Claremont McKenna College and Harvard Business School, she was once the one with a more promising political career, working in the George W. Bush White House on economic policy and serving as a director for the Western Hemisphere on the National Security Council.

“People who believe that women who work outside the home are uncaring and can’t be good mothers are just misguided,” she told Politico last year. “I would work and want to have a career, regardless of if my husband works. It’s not only for the money.”

She has now become the campaign's most prolific fundraiser, making 600 calls last quarter, she said. She aims to make 30 each day, but typically does about 20 to 25.

"The calls that I’m making are to max out donors. Max out and super PAC," she said. "If you’re having real conversations, it's hard to do more than, like, 25 or 30. It’s like 10 hours and you take a break here and there. I talk to people for, like, 45 minutes sometimes, it’s, like, a long conversation."

Cruz's campaign raised $14.2 million in the first and second quarters; it said it raised more than $1 million in the 100 hours after the first Republican debate last month. Cruz's allied super PACs said they raised $37 million.

Heidi Cruz pores over spreadsheets and donor lists, calling people who have supported Ted Cruz in the past and may be likely to do so in the future. Her perfect max-out donor, she said, is conservative, middle class, a business owner, and the type of person who can afford to give the limit but considers it a bit of a sacrifice.

"I don't want to say it's easy and I don't close every deal," she said. "I think people want to be a part of something that addresses the main issue of the day, number one, which is Washington versus the people."

Heidi Cruz genuinely believes her husband can win the White House, something that made it easier for her to take a leave from her job, which Goldman is holding. She said she is surprised that it was not difficult for her, a woman who has always been laser-focused on professional goals, to take time off.

"We believe that God would call us to do this. Some people believe other things, energy, whatever. But we are called to do this right now, and I feel that we are called to be part of the race. And I also believe Ted can win," she said. Heidi Cruz grew up a Seventh-day Adventist in San Luis Obispo, Calif., and is a vegetarian in line with the church's teachings.

Her conviction that her husband will win makes it easier to ask people to put their time, work and money behind the campaign.

"This is an investment for people, whether it’s their time or their money. And as an investor, I tell them, 'You’re an investor,'" she said.

"And you shouldn’t invest because the product aligns with your values, you should invest because you think this thing is really gonna sell. The company’s gonna be successful. So when we talk about winnability, I spend a lot of time on the phone talking about how Ted wins, and he wins by building this grass-roots army that becomes a coalition," she said.

Heidi Cruz said she thinks her husband can broaden the Republican tent. She said her husband, who has called the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage “the very definition of tyranny,” was publicly asked whether he would hire gay people in his administration, “and he said 'Of course,' ” she said.

There's one place Cruz said she's not really looking for donations: Wall Street.

"I'm not calling down the Goldman employee list, that's for sure," she said. "If people make the choice at Goldman Sachs to support Ted and they’ve reached out to me, then I push them hard. But I’m not going to go pressure Goldman people to give to Ted and I’m not going to pressure campaign people to support Goldman. Separation of church and state," she said.

Cruz's husband has railed against Wall Street and said that Goldman engages in "crony capitalism." Ted Cruz often mentions his wife's business career on the campaign trail, but rarely the company for which she works. It did come up early on in the campaign, when Ted Cruz said that the family probably would seek medical insurance under the Affordable Care Act after losing their benefits when Heidi took a leave. They have since purchased a private health plan.

Heidi Cruz said that her husband is "against big businesses getting special deals with the government that small businesses can't get" because they don't have armies of lawyers, and that she doesn't think Goldman was looking for one.

“A lot of Wall Street is out of touch with mainstream America,” she said. “That’s not our funding base.”

Cruz met her husband working on Bush's 2000 campaign. She told the New York Times in 2001 that she started while on break from business school after she had just broken up with her boyfriend of two years. She planned to "forget boys" and "kill myself on the campaign." One night she went out with Ted Cruz; they spent hours talking, with him peppering her with questions about her background, goals and plans. They became a couple in short order and were married soon after.

Like many couples juggling two careers, it hasn’t always been simple. Ted moved to Austin in 2003 to work as Texas solicitor general; his career had floundered in Washington while hers had taken off. Heidi followed later and fell into a period of depression, during which a police officer found her sitting on the grass between a median and the freeway, according to BuzzFeed.

“When I moved to Texas, it really was for Ted and I wasn’t comfortable with that,” she said. The period spurred her to take a look at her life through the prism of her religion.

“I had to decide, ‘Who am I living for, anyway?' ” she said. “I don’t want it to be for myself, and I say it’s not for myself, but it kind of is, and I’m not going to live only for my husband. . . . I’m living for God and the path he has charted for my life.”

She ended up moving to Houston to work for Goldman while her husband stayed in Austin. The family now lives in Houston. She is willing to talk about almost any part of her life on the trail, she said, to illustrate to both men and women that there are trade-offs people must make in life.

But her main job is to bolster her husband’s candidacy.

“There are women who use their husband’s candidacies for their own” purposes, she said. “I love my life. I love my career. This is not for me. This is for our country.”

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