Mar 23, 2015 11:54 AM

Steinhauser: Will being first give Ted Cruz a leg up in NH?

NH1 Political Director -

CONCORD - Ted Cruz started his week by announcing for president.

The Republican senator from Texas will end his week in New Hampshire.

"I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives, rising up to reignite the promise of America. And that is why today I am announcing that I am running for President of the United States," Cruz said Monday morning, formally announcing his White House bid as he gave a convocation address Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Cruz becomes the first major candidate in either the GOP or the Democratic Party to launch a 2016 presidential campaign. His speech came one week after he wrapped up a two-day swing through the Granite State, and just four days before he returns for another visit.

Republican reaction in the first-in-the-nation primary state to the move by Cruz was mostly positive.

Conservative activist Andrew Hemingway told NH1 News that "my Facebook feed was full of New Hampshire conservatives who are really excited that he was running."

Hemingway, who ran for the GOP gubernatorial nomination last year, said that Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida have the ability to fire up a crowd. Hemingway predicted that Cruz will "put together a very strong team in New Hampshire," adding that "I think he's going to do very well here."

When Cruz was in the Granite State a week ago, he excited a crowd of more than 300 mostly conservative activists at a Strafford County Republican Committee "chili and chat" in Barrington. Strafford County's considered a hotbed of conservative activism in New Hampshire.

Watch Ted Cruz talk one-on-one with NH1 News

Marga Coulp, special events director for the Strafford County GOP, told NH1 that "standing room only crowds reflect the interest the activists here in Strafford County have to find a good, common sense conservative."

One of those activists in the audience last weekend in Barrington was Jeff Chidester, a radio talk show host and columnist.

Asked about Cruz, the Seacoast based Chidester said "you have a hard core group from some of the northern counties and certainly this side of the state that look at him as a very strong constitutionalist."

"Cruz has that natural following because he tends to be the most outspoken person, after Rand Paul, on constitutional issues. But he also does it in a way that some of those hard core constitutionalists love to see. Don't mix words. Just say it as it should be said and get it out there," he added.

The New Hampshire Republican Party didn't put out an official statement. But chair Jennifer Horn wrote on her Facebook page that "Sen. Ted Cruz is announcing his candidacy for President today - the first Republican to formally announce. I hope all of my fellow activists will embrace this primary as an opportunity to highlight your candidates strengths and build up our party so we can stand together next year to defeat the devastating agenda of Hillary Clinton."

Cruz first out of the gate

Will announcing first give Cruz a leg up in New Hampshire?

Three veteran GOP consultants in the Granite State told NH1 News that Monday's move will give the senator from Texas lots of attention, but that in the end the timing won't give Cruz an advantage in what's expected to be large field of GOP contenders battling in a wide open New Hampshire primary.

"Announcing first gives him great national attention. Because there are so many who may run it would be easy to get lost if you announced during a time when lots of others do so, so this was a smart strategic move nationally," said Steve Durpey, a former state GOP chairman and one of the Granite State's two committee members on the Republican National Committee.

"I don't think announcing first gives you any advantage whatsoever in New Hampshire. We know there are going to be lots of qualified candidates. This is a marathon, not a sprint," added Durpey, who as a top political adviser to Sen. John McCain in his 2000 and 2008 presidential campaigns.

David Carney agrees on the timing.

"It gives him stronger talking points to make a sale. But New Hampshire voters have a bountiful banquet table of choices, so it will be a while maybe months before anyone grabs the lions share on NH voters," said Carney, who was a longtime adviser to then-Gov. Rick Perry of Texas.

"Cruz has just left the starting line ahead of others but the those competitors have stretched out, laced up and ready to join the marathon," Carney told NH1.

Tom Rath said he's "not sure it gives him (Cruz) a leg up but it certainly has driven a couple of news cycles- he had a good visit last week here- he will get a bump out of this today and through tomorrow and then he is back here later this week so those things have significantly increased his visibility here."

Rath, a former state attorney general who was a top adviser to Mitt Romney in his two White House bids, strategized that "Cruz, right now at least, is not really running to win the NH GOP primary - he is running to win the GOP Conservative primary -ie, he is first trying to beat Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Ben Carson, Scott Walker."

"New Hampshire usually goes to the center/right candidate- even more likely this year with likely heavy independent participation in GOP race because of coronation on Democrat's side. Cruz's play here is to beat those other folks taking up his space- winning the overall race would be great- but a strong showing in Iowa and winning among the right here help him make the cut to go to SC and beyond," Rath added.

Back in New Hampshire on Friday

Cruz returns to the Granite State for a two-day swing at the end of the week.

Friday he speaks at the Young America Foundation's "New England Freedom Conference" at the Radisson Hotel in Nashua. The two-day event's expected to attrack young conservative activists from across New England.

Saturday Cruz headlines a Seacoast Republican Women's brunch at the Portsmouth Country Club.

The New Hampshire Democratic Party told NH1 that "when Ted Cruz visited New Hampshire last week, Granite Staters say once again what we already knew: That Ted Cruz's anti-middle class Tea Party agenda is completely at odds with New Hampshire."

"Not only did Ted Cruz shut down government in an attempt to deny health care to millions of Americans, but he's also opposed equal pay, raising the minimum wage, LGBT rights, and a woman's ability to make her own health care decisions," said NHDP Chairman Ray Buckley, in a statement.


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