As Bush Stumbles, Cruz Camp Claims Momentum

With 100 days to the Iowa caucuses, Ted Cruz's presidential campaign is offering a confident outlook on his long-term viability, heartened by expectations-busting fundraising and a far-reaching ground game.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at Prestonwood Baptist Church on Oct. 18 2015.

With 100 days to the Iowa caucuses — and GOP rival Jeb Bush shaking up his own campaign — Ted Cruz's team is offering a confident outlook on his long-term viability, heartened by expectations-busting fundraising and a far-reaching ground game.

In a memo circulated Friday evening, Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe laid out the state of the campaign exactly seven months after the Texas senator entered the race as the first major Republican candidate. 

"With unparalleled fundraising success, a grassroots organization second to none, and this remarkable team of courageous conservatives from all across the country dedicated making Ted our next President, we are well prepared for the 100 days ahead, but now is no time to rest on our laurels," Roe wrote. "On to Iowa. On to Victory."

The memo, obtained by The Texas Tribune, came the same day Bush's campaign announced significant cutbacks, reportedly reducing its payroll by 40 percent, trimming travel costs by 20 percent and scaling back 45 percent on some other costs. Top donors to Bush, the former Florida governor, are expected to convene this weekend in Houston, Cruz's hometown, to meet with campaign officials and mingle with three generations of the famous family, including former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

Asked Friday about the Bush campaign cutbacks, Cruz said his team is "going in the opposite direction." In an interview with Bloomberg Politics, Cruz recalled how his campaign, before launching, studied unsuccessful presidential efforts and noticed a common denominator: high burn rates, with the campaigns spending more than they raised. 

"We focused very much on being lean early on, not spending any money early on, saving our resources," Cruz said. "We're now deploying them. We're now ramping up."

While the campaign is sounding optimistic notes, Cruz still faces obstacles in his path to the nomination. He has been ticking upward in national and Iowa polls but remains distant from the top tier of GOP candidates, which for weeks has comprised billionaire Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Cruz's campaign has been encouraged by a string of polls in recent weeks that have put him in third place nationally and in Iowa, sometimes in double digits. He has also won — or has come close to winning — a series of straw polls that, taken together, represent the GOP spectrum in his view. "He even had a strong second place showing in Rand Paul’s back yard — the Republican Liberty Caucus," Roe wrote, referring to the libertarian gathering where the two senators went head-to-head.

The memo zeroes in on two areas where it believes the campaign is strongest: fundraising and organization. In fundraising, Cruz's campaign has raised $27.5 million since the start of his campaign, the second-highest total in the GOP field, and has $13.8 million in the bank, the most of any Republican candidate. In organization, Cruz's team claims it was the first to designate county chairs in all 171 counties in the first four early voting states and says it is building support deep into the primary calendar with more than 650 members of state leadership teams across the country. 

The memo also noted that Cruz's campaign has the advantage of being an "in-house operation," with all its key functions — fundraising and media relations, for example — based out of its Houston headquarters. "There are several benefits to operating this way, but chief among them is a cohesiveness that is only made possible by sharing an office and frequent communication," said Roe, who has fully relocated to Houston with his family to work on the campaign.

Cruz has declined to draw direct contrasts with the GOP frontrunners — especially Trump, with whom he has cultivated a chummy relationship. Cruz's allies, however, believe voters will ultimately come around to the idea that he is the only anti-establishment hopeful with an actual record of standing up to Washington.

While avoiding specifics, Cruz himself has not ruled out offering sharper contrasts between himself and the two candidates at the top of the polls. Asked in an interview published Thursday about policy differences between himself and Trump, Cruz said "there are plenty ... and there may well come a time when we start highlighting those more."

On Friday, Cruz crisscrossed Iowa with an itinerary that had him holding six events in five cities and towns. He had two more stops scheduled in the state Saturday before returning home for a news conference Monday in Houston with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. His campaign was tight-lipped Friday about the purpose of the news conference, but speculation centers on whether Patrick, arguably the most powerful elected official in Texas, is preparing to endorse Cruz for president.