July 31, 2012 marked a monumental day for Republicans in Texas and throughout the country. With the upset victory of Ted Cruz over David Dewhurst in the race for the Republican Nomination to become Texas’ next U.S. Senator, true conservatives stood up to moderate and establishment Republicans to declare that the days of kowtowing to liberals and the Washington establishment is over. Ted Cruz represents the true spirit of conservatism in America and will be a vital component to placing the nation back on a path toward fiscal sanity and economic growth. For more than a year now, we have worked closely with Mr. Cruz and his talented team to bring a message to the citizens of Texas that the race for the Republican nomination was less about politics as usual, and more about representing the state in Washington with a clear and profoundly conservative voice. Tuesday, the citizens of Texas let us know that our message was accepted.
When we conducted our first poll on behalf of the Cruz campaign in July of 2011, only a quarter of likely voters had even heard of Ted Cruz and only 2% of likely voters claimed that they would vote for him in the 2012 Primary and there was a margin of error of 3%. Needless to say, things did not seem promising at the very start. But that simply makes it all the more impressive to see how things have changed so prominently in the course of a single year.
Early polling revealed two themes that played heavily in the strategic decisions made both by the Cruz team and by the Dewhurst campaign. First, that Ted Cruz was best received as a candidate who was outside of the traditional fold. He understood that it was the lack of leadership on both sides of the aisle that caused our nation to fall upon difficult times. Unlike the other candidates, Ted Cruz was going to fight the size of government and defend our constitution regardless of party lines. This message significantly resonated with voters from the very beginning and its impact never wavered. The people of Texas wanted to be assured that their next Senator was going to stand up to the Washington establishment and do what was right. Second, there was a very critical message that the Dewhurst campaign used against Cruz, showing that he had worked on behalf a Chinese company that was taking away jobs from Texas. The hit proved to be very memorable with voters, but our Message Mapping showed that, while memorable, it didn’t move voters against voting for Ted Cruz. In fact, we saw that the message actually increased the name identification for Cruz. Rather than panic at the prospect of having a very negative ad up against us, we weathered the storm and saw that it ultimately did not affect Cruz’s ballot position.
After the primary, we leveraged new likely primary run-off survey data to build a probability model to give the Cruz campaign an estimate of how likely primary runoff voters would be to support Ted Cruz. WPA took the 1.4 million Republicans who cast Republican Primary ballots in the primary and using four key demographic variables: Age, Gender, Region, and Vote History we generated a probability score for how likely each person would be to support Ted Cruz in the runoff. By doing this, the Cruz campaign was able to target individual voters with selected pieces of information such as direct mail or phone calls, and get those voters to turnout in favor of Cruz on Election Day. This individual level targeting was essential to cutting Dewhurst’s lead in the primary, and eventually overtaking him in the weeks leading up to the run-off.
As the results trickled in Tuesday night, we were, of course, primarily rooting for a Cruz victory. While this was certainly the main source of celebration, those at WPA are always interested in the overall accuracy of our polling. In the tracking that we did leading up to the run-off, we saw Ted Cruz continually leading David Dewhurst by roughly eight points. While the numbers would shift slightly one way or the other, Cruz’s lead never collapsed. Heading into the final few days, the numbers stayed relatively flat…until the weekend. By Friday night, our numbers were showing a substantial double-digit lead for Cruz. Cruz also held a lead in our early voting polling results. On Sunday, our final night of tracking, we had Cruz holding a 15-point lead over Dewhurst with a 3.6% margin of error. Last night, the final results came in at Cruz winning by 13.6%, well within our margin. We are very proud of the work that we have done in the past year and very proud to work for Texas Senate Republican Nominee, Ted Cruz.