The Lone Star State held its U.S. Senate Republican primary runoff election last week between Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Tea Party favorite and Solicitor General Ted Cruz.
Ted Cruz won the election by 14 points, and is “favored to win in November,” reported USA Today, “because Texas has not elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994.”
But the real story is how a first-time candidate for elected office could pull a Texas-sized upset against an elected official with support from Texas Governor Rick Perry and others.
How did this liberty-loving Cuban-American Ted Cruz do it?
“Social media was critically important to Ted’s win,” 24-year-old Digital Strategist Vincent Harris, a Leadership Institute faculty member, said. “The Cruz campaign ran the most integrated statewide digital strategy in the history of American politics.”
In January 2011, Ted Cruz announced his candidacy in a call with conservative bloggers. He then tweeted this announcement before holding a traditional press conference.
On Facebook, Ted Cruz’s 86,946 fans are double that of Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s 43,218 fans. And according to the Houston Chronicle, Ted Cruz “tweeted to his Twitter followers 5,117 times through runoff day, versus 597 for Dewhurst.”
Vincent Harris, Ted Cruz’s digital strategist, stayed busy managing his online presence.
“There were constant meetings about online ads, the campaign’s message, Ted’s schedule, and figuring out ways to raise as much money online as we could to compete with our opponent’s self-funded warchest,” Vincent told the Leadership Institute. “I spearheaded the online advertising, website, online fundraising, graphic design/creation, and worked with the campaign to write and produce web videos. It was an amazing opportunity to work with John Drogin, Jason Johnson, and the entire team.”
Vincent, a native of Fairfax, Virginia—just miles from the Leadership Institute’s headquarters in Arlington—skipped classes in high school sometimes to walk along Rep. Tom Davis (R—Va.) dressed as an elephant in parades and other gatherings. He was also chairman of the Statewide Virginia Teenage Republicans, for which he organized a statewide convention with guest speaker Pat Robertson.
In May 2005, he started the blog TooConservative.com which quickly gained popularity—more than 60,000 unique web visitors a month—in part due to its live-blog chats with notable Virginia politicians. In May 2006, Vincent founded RightOfTexas, a conservative blog in Texas focusing on politics and elections throughout the state.
At age 18, Vincent endorsed Mike Huckabee for president early in the game and scored an early interview with the Arkansas governor. Later, he received an online staffer job with the campaign; he urged them to start a Twitter account and Huckabee became the first of the GOP 2008 presidential candidates to do so, according to Campaigns and Elections. In 2009, Vincent graduated from Baylor University in Texas with a religion degree.
Vincent ran the digital campaigns for the presidential races of Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich this cycle. He’s also chief executive officer of Harris Media, whose clients have included: Governor Rick Scott, Governor Bob McDonnell, Governor Nikki Haley, Governor Rick Perry, Speaker Newt Gingrich, Governor Jan Brewer, and Senator John Cornyn.
Vincent was also the new media director for the
National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2009 and the
Iowa online director for Governor Mike Huckabee in 2008.
His digital skills have caught the eye of many.
He received Campaigns and Elections’ Youngest Rising Star of 2012 award and also received in 2012 two Pollie awards from the American Association of Political Consultants.
“I want to continue to lead the party online toward embracing new media,” Vincent shared with LI.
Vincent has taught as a faculty member at seven LI trainings, including: twice at the International Leadership Training Seminars, Comprehensive Internet Activism School, RightOnline 2008, twice at LI’s Blogging Workshop, and Future Candidate School.
“I volunteer at LI because I believe in the conservative movement,” Vincent said. “A limited government that lets people make their own decisions and keep their own hard earned salaries is important. I've loved trainings at the Leadership Institute and always find they keep me sharp and on my toes.”
“The Leadership Institute was helpful because it allowed me to break out of my shell,” Vincent shared. “By giving trainings I was able to sharpen my skills as a digital strategist and just meet fantastic current and future leaders of the movement. It's a great networking opportunity!”
Vincent is now working on his doctorate in government at the University of Texas at Austin.
As Morton Blackwell, Leadership Institute president, says in his Laws of the Public Policy Process, “Political technology determines political success.”
Please welcome Vincent Harris as LI’s Spotlight of the Week.
Ted Cruz’s campaign was sprinkled with staff trained at the Leadership Institute. Watch for more spotlights on these individuals in weeks to come.
LI offers training in 50 states and dozens of countries. Please go here to register for an already-scheduled training or contact LI to request training in your area. In fact, LI is hosting Campaigning in a Digital World training this Wednesday, August 8. Register here.
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To nominate a Leadership Institute graduate or faculty member to be featured as LI's spotlight of the week, please contact LI's External Affairs Officer Lauren Hart at LaurenHart@LeadershipInstitute.org.