Saturday, January 3, 2015

What does Ted Cruz have in common with Taylor Swift?!?

"Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith."
Galatians 6:10

Answer: Josh Perry
Josh Perry is a lanky, 26-year-old from Nederland, Texas with a good job on Capitol Hill and a healthy adoration for Taylor Swift. And every day, he pretends to be Ted Cruz on the Internet.

As Cruz's in-house digital strategist, it is Perry's job to channel the freshman senator online, engage activists on Twitter and Facebook and promote Cruz's media appearances and speeches.

In just a few years, Cruz has gone from being an unknown corporate lawyer in Houston to become one of the most talked-about politicians on the Web. Cruz began traveling to Iowa and New Hampshire in 2013—and his many conservative fans are eager to see him run for president.

Perry joined Cruz in the early days of his Senate campaign in 2011, when Cruz was an unknown candidate with little hope to defeat the establishment-backed Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Perry's responsibilities on the campaign were two-fold: Help manage Cruz's online presence and drive him to events around the state.


According to data from Facebook and Twitter provided to Politico in December, Cruz is mentioned more on social media than any other politician. Between Sept. 1 and Dec. 1, Cruz's accounts were mentioned on Twitter, 4.5 million times, which is 1.7 million more than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and 2.6 million more than the closest Republican, Rand Paul.

Cruz's posts on Twitter are routinely retweeted more than 1,000 times apiece, and his Facebook accounts have more than 1 million supporters. Using social media to promote initiatives and connect voters has become a vital part of politicians' communication strategies in recent years, allowing them to share their message directly with supporters.


That cohesion between Cruz and Perry dates back to the countless hours the duo spent alone together crisscrossing Texas during the campaign. Perry accompanied Cruz to scores of events and quickly memorized every line of Cruz's old speeches.

Perry, who prefers to stay behind the scenes as much as possible—he declined to be interviewed on camera--says part of the secret to Cruz's success online is his willingness to engage on issues that supporters are eager to discuss.

"Half the time if you try to force issues and force messaging that's not what your activists want to talk about, you're doing damage to yourself," Perry said. "If you had somebody who didn't speak as well [as Cruz] or have the same type of personality, I could see it being a lot more difficult. I think that's definitely a big part of it. But you've also got to know who your audience is and speak to them."

That approach, however, has left Cruz with a list of enemies in Washington, where some in his own party sees him as a rabble-rouser and an ideologue who refuses to compromise.


It's easy to see why Cruz and Perry get along so well. In college, Perry was a member of the "Young Conservatives of Texas," a group traditionally known to be more conservative than the College Republicans at the University of Texas in Austin.

[Author's note: THAT is the understatement of the year!]


Cruz's online break-out moment came in September 2013, when the senator began a 21-hour filibuster in protest of the presidents health care law on the Senate floor.

Not knowing that his boss would remain on the floor for such a long time, Perry manned the Twitter feed through the night. Watching from a TV in his office that broadcast the Senate floor proceedings, Perry spent the night tweeting Cruz's best lines.

Cruz had mentioned his admiration for how Paul had spent part of his filibuster earlier that year to read tweets from supporters. So before the speech, Perry put out a call on Cruz's Twitter account asking people to tweet at his account about Obamacare. Perry printed out the best submissions and ran them to the Senate Cloak room near the door of the Senate, where another staffer picked them up and put it in front of Cruz.

"Obamacare," Cruz said, reading from the tweet on the paper. "Ain't nobody got time for that."

Perry immediately clipped a video of Cruz reciting that quote—a reference to a popular Internet video about a woman who described escaping a fire--from the Senate floor feed, uploaded it to YouTube and tweeted the quote from Cruz's official account. Today, it has nearly 900 retweets.

Perry remembers the moment fondly as his contribution to American political history.

"No matter what else happens, 'ain't nobody got time for that' is in the congressional record because of lowly ol' me," he said.

It wouldn't be the last time Perry would thrust Cruz into the pop culture conversation. Perry is an obsessive Taylor Swift fan—and yes, this began before she branched out from the country music scene, he'll have you know—and he uses every opportunity he can to incorporate her into his work.

In November, Cruz tweeted an auto-tuned video of Jonathan Gruber, the MIT professor who helped construct Obamacare, using the beat from Swift's "Shake it Off."

When he's not thinking of Ted Cruz or Taylor Swift, Perry's head is in space. Perry, a self-declared NASA geek, originally planned to study aerospace engineering in college, but he switched to political science. The shelf near his desk is decorated in toy spaceships that he's collected over the years, and his personal Twitter page, beneath the bio, "I like space • Life is better in GIFs • Pardon my Texan" is full of pictures of space shuttles (interspersed between Taylor Swift GIFs and emojis.) In early December he even traveled to Cape Canaveral, Fla. to watch the Orion space shuttle launch, which, of course, he live-tweeted.
Read the whole thing here.

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