Carville Fund Raiser for Cruz

Cruz followers like to believe that he stands up to the party establishment. Hmm. Read this. It’s also illuminating that a fund raiser for him was held at the New Orleans home of James Carville.

From the New York Times:

NEW ORLEANS — Striding up the sidewalk of one of this city’s most affluent neighborhoods on Monday evening, S. Scott Sewell seemed an unlikely figure to be attending a fund-raiser for Senator Ted Cruz. An oil industry executive, Mr. Sewell served in President George Bush’s administration, lent a hand to George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential recount, and was twice a chairman for Mitt Romney’s Louisiana campaigns.

But if such a person of the Republican establishment appeared an odd fit to support a candidate whose political identity was shaped challenging his party’s leadership, the candlelit, art-filled setting for Mr. Cruz’s reception was even more surprising: the elegant home of the longtime Bush loyalist Mary Matalin and her husband, James Carville, a Democratic strategist.

The vast majority of Republican elites remain bitterly opposed to the prospect of Mr. Cruz’s becoming the party’s presidential nominee, some even preferring to take their chances with Donald J. Trump. Yet, to the strains of a jazz threesome a block from St. Charles Avenue here, over Texas barbecue at his Houston campaign office and in one of Washington’s see-and-be-seen steakhouses, Mr. Cruz, Washington’s chief anti-establishment agitator, has quietly begun wooing some of the party’s most entrenched donors and officials.

“We’re working hard to consolidate a lot of support,” Mr. Cruz told a reporter as he mingled with guests arriving at the Matalin-Carville home.

Some in the old guard have started signaling to their reluctant right-of-center brethren that it is time to face the possibility that the hard-line Mr. Cruz could be their standard-bearer.

“If Cruz makes it, which is very doable, every one of the establishment crowd who is now eviscerating him will line up, salute smartly and get on board,” Ms. Matalin said, offering a mix of prodding and prophecy. “No one will want to be responsible for a G.O.P. defeat.”

That even traces of détente have appeared between Mr. Cruz and the party’s traditional power brokers this early illustrates how thoroughly unpredictable the Republican race has been — and that, for major political donors, it can be safer to hedge one’s bets in such a volatile environment.

But others in the party hierarchy, including the officially neutral Ms. Matalin, either share some of the frustrations that have propelled Mr. Cruz and Mr. Trump or at least recognize what the two have tapped into.

They also take him at his word. “I believe in Senator Cruz because he believes what he’s saying,” Mr. Sewell said outside the Matalin-Carville home, echoing sentiments often heard among the rank-and-file at Mr. Cruz’s Iowa gatherings.

What is more striking, and will cause deep consternation among Republican strategists, is that other donors are beginning to embrace Mr. Cruz’s argument that he can win a general election by motivating core conservatives to come to the polls rather than by appealing to swing voters.

Andrew Puzder, the chief executive of the conglomerate that owns Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., supported both of Mr. Romney’s presidential campaigns and has contributed to a number of “super PACs” and candidates this year, including Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. But after spending a couple of hours eating brisket with Mr. Cruz on Sunday at his campaign headquarters, Mr. Puzder said he was “very seriously considering” getting behind him, in part because of his appeal to the conservative base.

The theory of the missing conservative voter, central to Mr. Cruz’s pitch, has been widely and robustly challenged, including by figures on the right. But it is taking flight among some in the party’s donor class.

“The reason Republicans lost in 2012 and 2008 is not because we lost swing voters,” Carla Sands, a California investor, wrote in an invitation to a $1,000-a-plate Los Angeles luncheon this week featuring Mr. Cruz’s wife, Heidi. “The reason Republicans lost is because they failed to motivate and turn out their base — mainly evangelical voters in states like Florida, Colorado and Pennsylvania who didn’t feel that the Republican nominee spoke to their issues.”

Ms. Sands, a philanthropist who has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to establishment-aligned Republicans, predicted that “this election will also be a ‘base’ election, and we need a candidate who inspires and excites the base of our party to come out and vote.”

Mr. Cruz’s wife, who met him on the 2000 Bush campaign and worked in the administration, has emerged as something of a liaison to right-of-center donors. She headlined events in Atlanta; Austin, Dallas, Houston and Midland, Tex.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Seattle in November and December, helping Mr. Cruz raise nearly $20 million in the final quarter of the year. That haul is expected to exceed those of any of the more establishment-friendly candidates.

But Mr. Cruz has other links to the party elites he has long railed against: Mr. Puzder was connected to him by Anthony R. Dolan, Ronald Reagan’s chief speechwriter, who is now part of Mr. Cruz’s team of advisers. Chad Sweet, Mr. Cruz’s campaign chairman, worked at Goldman Sachs and was chief of staff to Michael Chertoff, a Homeland Security secretary under George W. Bush.

Mr. Cruz’s campaign manager, Jeff Roe, has also cultivated relationships with the relatively small universe of Republican strategists. In December, he phoned the lobbyist Charles R. Black Jr., a veteran of Republican presidential campaigns, about arranging a meeting with him for Mr. Cruz when Congress returns this month. (The meeting has not come about.)

Mr. Cruz will, however, appear at a pair of fund-raisers in the Washington area next week that may lure some party regulars: a $1,000-a-person “happy hour” at the Capital Grille, followed by an event at the McLean, Va., home of Michael Adams, a former Bechtel Group executive.

It’s hard to believe Cruz won’t be beholden to some of these people if he becomes the nominee or president.

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