U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is planning an aggressive schedule of events in Iowa as his presidential campaign increases its overall focus on the first early-voting state.
This month alone, Cruz is scheduled to hold nearly two-dozen events during three trips to the state. The busiest swing begins Monday, with an itinerary that has Cruz crisscrossing Iowa for 13 stops over three days.
For Cruz's presidential effort, the increased travel is the latest part of a gradual ramp-up in the Hawkeye State. He recently opened his campaign's first office in Iowa, and his team is growing its paid staff there to oversee an army of volunteers.
Bryan English, Cruz's top staffer in Iowa, said the campaign has for months planned to turn more of its attention to the state after Labor Day. Prior to the holiday, Cruz balanced his Hawkeye State efforts with a push to lay groundwork in places deeper into the primary calendar, including the several southern states set to vote March 1 in what is being called the “SEC primary.”
“This strategy is really showing the strength and the breadth of the Cruz operation,” English said. “We intend to do well in the first three states, but we also understand the calendar and the environment demand we take a national approach to this.”
The state of the GOP race for the White House is not what it once was in Iowa. The onetime GOP frontrunner there, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, dropped out of the race last month, and Cruz has moved quickly to scoop up his supporters throughout the country. But Cruz has also had to contend with the insurgent candidacies of billionaire Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who have sat atop most recent surveys in Iowa and nationally.
Asked whether the Iowa push means the campaign sees a new opening in the state or increasingly views it as a must-win, English reiterated the ramp-up has been in the works for months. “Not necessarily, but we’ve always intended to do very well in all three of the early states,” he replied.
Among the more notable events on Cruz’s Iowa calendar this month are those involving U.S. Rep. Steve King, the firebrand conservative whose endorsement could be a major boost for any GOP hopeful in the state. It's unclear if or when King plans to make an endorsement, but Cruz is well positioned: King regularly lavishes praise on the senator, King's son Jeff is working for a pro-Cruz super PAC and English is a former aide to the congressman.
Jeff King, who works for his dad's political operation, said Thursday he has noticed a new stage in Cruz's campaign in Iowa.
"The ground game has been really stepped up here in the last month-and-a-half or so in Iowa," said Jeff King, noting that the strategy fits the rhythm of politicking in a state that has a history of breaking late for a candidate. "Historically you're better off not being the top one or two at this point in the process."