News & Politics

Will Cruz Be Hurt by His Vote-Shaming Mailer?

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pauses as he speaks during a campaign event at Western Iowa Tech Community College in Sioux City, Iowa, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The Cruz campaign is coming under fire for a direct-mail piece that attempts to shame people into voting in the Iowa caucuses on Monday night.

The mailer, based on a successful mailer sent in 2014 to Iowa voters by the GOP, has been widely criticized by other candidates as well as the Iowa secretary of state.

Fox News:

The campaign for Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz was slammed on Saturday because of a mailer that was sent out to potential Iowa voters that seemed designed to look like an official notice warning recipients about “low voter turnout in your area.”

The Cruz campaign’s mailer also contained the recipient’s voting history, a grade for their history and that of several of their neighbors.

“Your individual voting history as well as your neighbors’ are public record,” the mailer read. “Their scores are published below, and many of them will see your score as well. CAUACUS ON MONDAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SOCRE and please encourage your neighbors to caucus as well. A follow up notice may be issued following Monday’s caucuses.”

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate took exception to the flier, saying it is “not in keeping in the spirit of the Iowa caucuses.” He added that Cruz’s campaign “misrepresents Iowa election law.” There’s “no such thing as an election violation related to frequency of voting,” he said.

Pate’s comments didn’t seem to deter Cruz’s attitude about the mailers as he brushed off the fuss, saying “I will apologize to nobody for using every tool we can to encourage Iowa voters to come out and vote.”

Matt Schultz, the campaign’s Iowa state chairman, reiterated to The New York Times that the use of mailers isn’t uncommon to try and increase voter turnout.

“Our mailer was modeled after the very successful 2014 mailers that the Republican Party of Iowa distributed to motivate Republican voters to vote, and which helped elected numerous Republican candidates during that cycle,” Schultz added.

Similar fliers were also mailed out during the 2012 presidential race to encourage potential voters to vote for Barack Obama, according to the Independent-Journal Review. Those mailers were also met with similar scrutiny.

“These kind of mailers are fraught with risk,” Republican strategist Rick Wilson told the paper. “They do work, but the social pressure stuff has got to be subtle. This, on the other hand, is like a sledgehammer.”

True, the mailer is not very subtle. And some people appear to be upset that their voting history and other personal information have been given to their neighbors.

But why load the gun of your opponent?

Right before heading to church, Donald Trump ripped Ted Cruz’s campaign on Sunday morning for sending mailers to Iowa voters designed to look like official documents that accuse them of a “VOTING VIOLATION” for failure to turn out in past elections.

“The Cruz campaign issued a dishonest and deceptive get out the vote ad calling voters ‘in violation,'” Trump tweeted. “They are now under investigation. Bad!”

Trump’s comments come after Iowa’s top elections official condemned the mailers on Saturday, though he did not announce any investigation.

Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate said in a statement that Cruz’s mailers, which has the words “official public record” printed in red at the top, “misrepresents the role of my office, and worse, misrepresents Iowa election law.”

As the Washington Post reports, the idea for the mailer is based on sound research that shows a clear increase in turnout when the shaming tactic is used. So what’s the big deal?

The perception is that candidate has crossed a line. Trump’s outrageous lie that the state is going to investigate Cruz notwithstanding, voters can be a prickly lot and in a close race like this one, even a few people taking offense can make a difference.

The incident may not hurt Cruz very much. But it may not help as much as it could have.