DES MOINES — Sen. Ted Cruz's campaign is banking on two things to carry him over the finish line in Monday night's Iowa caucuses: superior organization and analytics.
Cruz is locked in a tight battle with billionaire Donald Trump, and the two have followed very different strategies. Cruz's is the more traditional one, intensely focused on the ground game. Trump thinks he can bring voters to the caucuses through the force of his celebrity and personality, which has drawn tens of thousands to his rallies here.
The Texas senator's operation thinks that it has come down to fighting over precisely 9,131 voters who are trying to decide between Cruz and Trump; 3,185 who are torn between him and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson; and a smaller group of voters — 2,807, to be precise — who haven't yet made their choice between him and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Cruz's campaign manager Jeff Roe laid out the challenge of the next few days in pinpoint detail Friday at a breakfast here organized by Bloomberg Politics.
"It's very primal, frankly," Roe said, when asked how he could be so confident of that data. "It's not like kernels in the jar at the state fair. These are people who have told us this. ... The numbers aren't wrong, because we've been testing them."
Roe also predicted that turnout will exceed the record for a Republican caucus, which is 122,000. What he doesn't know, he said, is by how much. He conceded that the bigger it goes, the better it will bode for Trump, who is counting on a surge of Republicans who have not traditionally made the effort to attend the caucuses, an exercise that requires devoting most of a frigid weeknight.
In the final days, he added, Cruz plans to stick to the message that has gotten him this far — the promise that he will be the ultimate disrupter of how Washington operates. But it will have one additional pitch.
"This is now a choice. In many respects, Mrs. Clinton's problems have led Republicans to believe they are picking a president now," Roe said, referring to the difficulties that former secretary of state Hillary Clinton is having in her Democratic primary battle with Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.).
In other words, Cruz will be asking Republicans to imagine the difference between having him and the bombastic Trump — whose record suggests he is far from a reliable conservative — in the Oval Office.
"Now the question Republican primary voters are asking is, who do we want our president to be? Not just who do we want our nominee to be," Cruz's campaign manager said. "That's a different calculation for people."
He also revealed that the campaign will officially announce on Sunday that it had more than $19 million in its campaign offers, as of Dec. 31, which he said will be $10 million more than any other GOP presidential candidate can claim. Trump, of course, is in a different category, as he is largely funding his campaign with his vast personal fortune.
That figure, Roe said, will be evidence that Cruz is financially equipped to battle it out for what could be months to go in the GOP primary race.