Ted Cruz's presidential campaign is expanding its presence in Iowa, beginning to send hundreds of volunteers from Texas to the early voting state where he increasingly looks like a top-tier candidate.
On Saturday, the campaign will officially open "Camp Cruz," a home base of sorts for Cruz's Iowa Strike Force, according to aides. The strike force is a group of volunteers mostly from his home state who have committed to work for the campaign in Iowa for a period of time in the lead-up to the caucuses set for Feb. 1.
Aides are describing the camp as at full capacity, with roughly 500 volunteers expected to come and go between Saturday and the nominating contest. They will be responsible for block walking, phone banks and other work in the campaign's Iowa office, which is in the Des Moines area.
The effort, in the works for months, is the latest chapter in Cruz's growing focus on the Hawkeye State. That's where polls show him rising to within striking distance of frontrunner Donald Trump.
"We've actually rented an entire college dormitory ... for volunteers to be up there knocking on doors in December and January," Cruz said during a speech last month in Lubbock, offering a preview of Camp Cruz. "They don't know what [will] hit them when the grassroots activists of Texas descend."
Cruz will be on hand to mark the formal opening of the camp Saturday morning, when he is set to hold a door-knocking kickoff party amid a two-day swing through the state.
The strike force has more than a dozen co-chairs tasked with recruiting so-called captains, who then organize their own groups of at least five volunteers. The co-chairs include Cruz's supporters in the Legislature, such as state Sen. Konni Burton of Colleyville, state Sen. Brandon Creighton of Conroe and state Rep. Matt Krause of Fort Worth. Also among the co-chairs are well-known conservative activists from across the state, such as Texas Eagle Forum President Cathie Adams, Republican National Committee member Robin Armstrong and Tyler Tea Party leader JoAnn Fleming.
"The Iowa caucus is exquisitely difficult and one of the most daunting and complicated political processes in America," Adams wrote last month in an email to Texas Eagle Forum supporters, asking them to get involved in the strike force. "And because it is so difficult, it is a true test of the ground game: the ability of campaigns to identify, win over and deliver voters."
The average member of the strike force is expected to stay for about a week or more. Volunteers are expected to cover their own expenses except for housing. The strike force is based in a dorm-like building with 24 rooms and 48 beds on the campus of AIB Business College, close to the Des Moines International Airport.
The effort was already getting underway Thursday, with the first wave of volunteers arriving at the camp. Among them was one of the co-chairs, Waco Tea Party President Toby Marie Walker, who tweeted that members of the strike force were baking cookies and decorating their doors to mark their first night together.
The launch of the strike force will coincide with Cruz's seventh trip to Iowa in eight weeks. Cruz is also scheduled to roll out his National 2nd Amendment Coalition on Friday afternoon at a gun range in Johnston and speak at FreedomWorks' Rising Tide Summit on Saturday afternoon in Cedar Rapids.