— -- After nearly a month away from Iowa, GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz will embark today on a six-day bus tour visiting 28 counties as part of his campaign’s goal to secure every corner of Iowa before the Feb. 1 caucuses.
“We’re not going to let up. We’re going to be putting on lots of miles and making lots of stops,” Iowa campaign chairman Bryan English said.
The Texas senator is on track to visit all 99 Iowa counties by Feb. 1, traveling to 77 by the bus tour’s end on Saturday, according to his campaign.
But Cruz’s rivals in the GOP presidential field have called him out for spending time elsewhere the past month.
"While other candidates have been largely absent from Iowa in December, Marco is spending time meeting voters and doing what we need to do to succeed in February,” Marco Rubio campaign spokesman Alex Conant told ABC News last week.
During the days leading up to Christmas, Cruz embarked on a “Take Off With Ted” tour of key states, many of them in the South, that will hold their nominating contests March 1. During that time, Cruz surged in polls nationally and in Iowa. While Cruz may have campaigned in other states for most of December, he has actually held nearly 30 more events in Iowa than Rubio.
“We have never thought you win a campaign by just having an office in the Des Moines metro area and stopping in, doing the same trips over and over,” English, Cruz’s Iowa campaign chairman, said.
English said the campaign studied previous caucus winners, trying to learn from their mistakes.
“If you don’t have your machinery in place to take advantage of an Iowa caucus win, it’s very difficult to build that after caucus,” English said.
Cruz’s intense bus tour schedule has him meeting with voters in small towns across the state, making up to six stops in one day, sometimes as late as 10:45 p.m. The stops include a church, Casey’s General Store, a Pizza Ranch and community centers.
The campaign has also rented a dormitory called “Camp Cruz” to house volunteers from across the country. The “strike force,” as the campaign calls the volunteers, is making calls and knocking on doors to get people to caucus.
Cruz, 45, galvanized those supporters and others on a nationwide conference call on New Year’s Eve. He also gave his supporters a warning: He and the campaign will increasingly become a target of negative attacks.
“We’re winning right now, and as a result I want to tell everyone, get ready,” he said. “Strap on the full armor of God, get ready for the attacks that are coming. ...We ain’t seen nothing yet."
Some of the attacks already lobbed include ethanol advocates going after Cruz for his opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard. Ethanol is a hot-button issue in Iowa.
Two super PACs supporting Cruz, Keep The Promise I and Stand For Truth, have announced television ad buys in Iowa that could help fend off the onslaught of attacks for which Cruz is bracing himself.
On that same New Year’s Eve conference call to supporters, Cruz made a prediction that he could win the GOP nomination in the next 90 days.
“There is a very good possibility that the Republican primary will be decided by the end of March,” Cruz said.