We spoke to people who know Ted Cruz, the only guy who can stop Donald Trump

‘He’s not a guy you would want to go for a beer with’

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It was the morning after the Republican TV debate in South Carolina, and Ted Cruz’s allies were spending their day speaking to people in New York City, a place where very very few people like Ted Cruz, and that day even fewer did.

The night before Cruz had made his biggest gaffe of the campaign so far, attacking the frontrunner Donald Trump for his “New York values.”

Cruz trails Trump at the Fox debate

No one could work out whether the ugly phrase connoted homophobia, anti-Semitism or just good old-fashioned small town suspicion of the diverse and louche metropolis, but it was immediately clear to Cruz’s campaign that the remark had the potential to hurt him with a group of people he had been courting tirelessly for months: very wealthy New York donors. 

“I had people who were very upset, [people] who I had invited to things,” says Mica Mosbacher, a Texan millionaire who has raised significant sums for Cruz, including from New Yorkers. Did the candidate man the phones too? “I would imagine, knowing him, he called. I definitely had to – we all did.”

Mosbacher says the “New York values” comment was “sort of a slip of the tongue – he was talking about liberal values.” She admits it was a bad moment. “I’m telling you, he’s not great with soundbites. We’ve had to do some damage control. We expected to have some real pushback from New Yorkers and they said they understood.” 

Cruz is not going to win the delegate-rich New York primary today, despite small pockets of support upstate. But if he can prevent his billionaire rival in the race from winning every single available delegate (by denying the frontrunner half the vote in a few districts, and across the state – details here), he will be one step closer to stopping Trump claiming the nomination for president. 

The New York Values saga has passed, but it raises interesting questions about the only candidate who can save America from Trump. Questions like, what happens when a man who hates gay marriage and abortion and the federal government has to build a nationwide coalition of supporters and donors wide enough to win a general election? And, just how crazily conservative is Ted Cruz? And, who the hell is this guy? 

People who have been in the room during Cruz’s exclusive fundraising events – who have seen the Texan fielding questions from people way outside his core constituency – say they know the answers. 


“He is very conservative,” says Mosbacher, who spoke to me last month. “His father is a pastor, and he’s a god-fearing man…he’s not a chameleon. I think he has a photographic memory. He doesn’t do as well on TV – it is not his friend.” 

Her best description is a metaphor everyone will immediately grasp. “He’s not a guy you would want to go for a beer with but if you need a designated driver, he’s your guy.”

Is it strategic? “No. I’ve had strategic conversations with him many time – and this is authentic Ted Cruz. He just says ‘this is what you get’. He’s held those all his life, I’ve known him for many years.” 

And those views he’s apparently held all his life is like read like a particularly aggressive book of the Old Testament. He opposes abortion even if a woman has been raped. He thinks the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage was “disastrous”. He calls man-made climate  change “pseudoscientific theory.” 

Summarising his incredible right-wingness, the New York Times says: “He would be the most conservative presidential nominee in at least a half-century, perhaps to the right of Barry Goldwater, testing the electoral limits of a personal ideology he has forged meticulously since adolescence.”

Kalman Sporn, Vice Chairman of the Republican Leadership Conference, who raised money for Cruz in the fall, says the candidate stopped coming to New York as much at the end of last year. “He was disappointed after a group of billionaires met him but didn’t follow through. He felt like he was being teased.”

Sporn organized a private dinner where Cruz found himself across the table from two gay New York hoteliers, at which Cruz was asked at the end about his harsh positions on social issues like gay marriage. The event leaked into the media after one of the participants posted pictures on Facebook.

Sporn (far right) with Cruz. Credit: Sporn Family Office

He won’t comment on the exchanges between the hoteliers and Cruz but does say: “Ted and his wife come across as cosmopolitan, and very likeable”. Cruz’s message to potential donors is consistent, even if they are gay: “He repeatedly says moderate candidates cannot win – that is his pitch to party loyalists,” says Sporn.

Does Cruz privately admit that some of his positions are exaggerated to get the evangelical vote out? Sporn won’t say.