Matt Mackowiak

Tea party insurgent Ted Cruz’s thrilling and improbable victory over Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in Texas’s GOP Senate primary provides a model for future long-shot candidates to follow, though repeating what Cruz did will be difficult.

A long line of dominoes had to fall, in the precise order that they did, for Cruz to overcome an opponent who had every advantage a political candidate can have.

Dewhurst had unlimited financing (he spent at least $19.9 million of his own money), universal name recognition, unanimous support from the Austin political establishment and massive political power as the leader of the Texas Senate.

Ted Cruz had courage, wisdom and a hunch.

When Cruz’s eventual campaign manager told me in early 2011 that the former Texas solicitor general would likely run for retiring U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat, I scoffed at the idea. The race was beyond his reach, he couldn’t raise enough money, he had never been on the ballot before, other likely candidates possessed statewide name recognition and Cruz’s Hispanic surname would hurt him in a Republican primary.

But Cruz and his team were undeterred by the naysayers. They went to work.

In Texas, if a primary candidate wins less than 50 percent of the vote, the top two primary candidates advance to a runoff. Cruz’s biggest insight was that he could win a runoff against Dewhurst; the hard part would be making it to the runoff.

Cruz set out to build the largest grassroots army in Texas history, believing that passionate supporters would act as force multipliers.

But first he needed help.

In politics, the shape of the field determines the race. Cruz needed to become the consensus conservative candidate in order to make it a one-on-one race against Dewhurst, so he could nationalize the campaign. When it began, four candidates sought the conservative mantle: Cruz, Railroad Commissioners Michael Williams and Elizabeth Ames Jones and former Secretary of State Roger Williams. Cruz came out ahead by outworking and outperforming his competition.

Early on, Cruz won the support of the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks (and later the Tea Party Express), whose outside efforts would prove critical later. He unexpectedly raised significant money (about $1 million every three months), a task made more difficult by the large, unsettled field.

Conservatives gradually lined up behind Cruz, giving him momentum and forcing the other conservative candidates to drop out. By the filing deadline, Cruz was the only tea party candidate in the race.


Matt Mackowiak

Matt Mackowiak is a Washington, DC and Austin, TX based political and communications consultant and the founder and President of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC, providing political consulting, media relations and crisis communications assistance to campaigns, companies, groups and individuals. Since he arrived in Washington, DC, he has served in senior roles for two U.S. Senators, a Governor, in the executive branch, in winning political campaigns, and in the private sector. Over his career Matt has developed deep relationships with national, state and local media and political figures.

Most recently Matt worked with PSG client Gov. Sean Parnell (R-AK) as a senior communications adviser, providing counsel on strategy, speechwriting and media relations during the 2011 legislative session in Juneau.

In 2010 Matt served as Campaign Manager for Bill Flores, the Republican nominee in Texas’ 17th Congressional District. After winning a 5-way primary, Flores defeated 10-term incumbent Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX) by 25% in November, the largest margin of victory for a GOP challenger in 2010.

In addition to offering counsel to individuals and corporations, Matt provides political analysis for the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, ABC News, CBS News, BBC News, and radio stations throughout the country. Matt’s on-therecord political analysis has appeared in Politico, the Washington Times, the Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg News, The Hill, Congressional Quarterly, the Washington Examiner, the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, and on ABCNews.com. He is a syndicated columnist and has had opinion columns published in the New York Post, New York Daily News, FoxNews.com, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Politico, Roll Call, Austin American-Statesman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Des Moines Register, National Review online, Congressional Quarterly and on the popular blog sites The Daily Beast and The Huffington Post. Matt has lectured and given speeches at the University of Illinois, the University of Texas, Texas Christian University, Georgetown University, Catholic University, the University of Denver, American University and the University of North Texas.

From 2005-2009 Matt served as Press Secretary to U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (RTX), the fourth ranking member of the Republican Leadership, and three-term former U.S. Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT). Earlier in his career he was a political appointee at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for Under Secretary Asa Hutchinson and Assistant Secretary Stewart Verdery, managed the second largest county in Iowa on the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, counseled corporate clients at international PR firm Burson-Marsteller, and performed White House Presidential and Vice Presidential advance nationwide.

Matt is a Director of the Center for Public Policy and Political Studies at Austin Community College, and is a sustaining member of MaverickPAC. He serves as a member of the Board of Advisors for the non-profit Luke’s Wings and enjoys helping Becky’s Fund and USA CARES.

A native of Austin, Texas, Matt graduated with a B.S. in Communications Studies (Political Communication track) from the University of Texas in 2003. Aside from his professional work, he owns and manages the popular blog site www.potomacflacks.com, which the Washingtonian has called “one of the best political blogs.” In his free time, Matt enjoys sports, live music, reading biographies, and is an avid supporter of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the University of Texas.