Ted Cruz's Letter Shaming Voters May Backfire In Iowa

Desperate To Win, Ted Cruz Shames Iowans For Votes

Ted Cruz campaign: When you can’t appeal to voters, try shaming voters instead.

As Ted Cruz trails Donald Trump by 6.6 percent in the Iowa Caucus race, his campaign’s resorted to desperate measures: When you can’t appeal to voters, try shaming voters instead. That may explain why Republicans throughout the state  received letters from the Ted Cruz campaign crafted to shame them into voting.

You are receiving this election notice because of low expected voter turnout in your area. Your individual voting history as well as your neighbors’ are public record.  Their scores are published below, and many of them will see your score as well.  CAUCUS ON MONDAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE and please encourage your neighbors to caucus as well.  A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday’s caucuses.

Sure, we’ve all gotten emails, direct mailings and targeted social media postings that attempt to rouse us from our apathy and drive us to the polls. But Ted Cruz’s campaign takes shaming voters to a whole new level . Inside the envelope is a bright, yellow “VOTING VIOLATION” ticket with not only your voting score, but the voting scores of your neighbors.  

Shaming voters in Iowa may work for some recipients, but for others, this approach backfired. The Conservative Treehouse got wind of it when Alta, IA resident Tom Hinkeldy tweeted a photo of a mailer his wife Steffany received. He deleted the original tweet because he forgot to remove their address from the envelope, but here’s an image with the address redacted.

Hey @tedcruz your brilliant public shaming campaign has inspired me to caucus on Monday...For @realDonaldTrump
Tweet with Ted Cruz campaign mailing for shaming voters to the Iowa Caucuses. Image: @YugeMio/Twitter.

This hypocritical attempt at shaming voters — Ted Cruz has missed 12.4 percent of Senate votes, an absentee rate surpassed only by the infamous Marco Rubio’s 13.3 percent — may seem like some bizarre attempt to discredit the evangelical candidate (as if losing his evangelical “Christian” base to a thrice-divorced libertine with weird hair isn’t bad enough). But others received and tweeted out photos of the same mailing. Conservative Treehouse also got their confirmation directly from the source:

Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler confirmed to IJ Review that the mailer was theirs in a phone call Friday evening, saying that the targeting had been “very narrow, but the caucuses are important and we want people who haven’t voted before to vote.” 

Who came up with this boorish attempt at shaming voters anyway?

The folks at Conservative Treehouse even have a pretty good idea of who came up with the Ted Cruz campaign’s voter shaming strategy: A political analyst, strategist and professor at the University of Iowa, Chris Larimer.

It looks like Howie might have found the culprit within the Ted Cruz campaign. A guy named Christopher Larimer works for Ted Cruz, and previously put a stunt like this together in Alaska. 

Chris Larimer, of course, flatly denies having any connection to the Ted Cruz campaign.

Perhaps Larimer does not directly work for Ted Cruz, but the mailer for shaming voters to the Iowa Caucuses has his fingerprints all over it. For starters, he literally wrote the book on voter shaming in 2006. Well, okay, not a book, but an influential, peer-reviewed research paper, titled “Social Pressure and Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment” for a Yale think tank (you can read it here). Second, as Conservative Treehouse mentioned, Larimer employed a similar letter for shaming voters to good effect in a 2014 election in Alaska.

Thirdly Christopher Larimer has clearly devoted some thought to Ted Cruz’s prospects. On Jan. 28, he told the Texas Tribune:

“If Trump’s not there, it affects the strategy other candidates take toward Cruz. Do they treat Cruz like the frontrunner, or do they talk about Trump?”

Shaming voters may seem like a strange way to ask for support from Iowa’s highly sought-after Caucus attendees. Then again, Ted Cruz’s right-wing evangelical “Christian” base is all about shaming the flock into compliance and doing what your authority figures tell you to do.

H/T @bimmerellaH/T Conservative Treehouse | Voter shaming from the Ted Cruz campaign. Photo/composite: @YugeMilo/Twitter; cc 2013 Gage Skidmore.

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Elisabeth Parker is a writer, web designer, mom, political junkie, and dilettante.