As Iowans prepare to head to the caucuses on Monday for the nation's first votes in the presidential primaries, the campaigns are pulling out all the stops. The mailer sent out by one Republican campaign, however, might end up backfiring.
Tom Hinkeldey, a resident of Alta, Iowa, tweeted a photo (which was later deleted because it included his personal address) on Friday evening of a mailer Sen. Ted Cruz's campaign sent addressed to his wife, Steffany. The mailer was a large card printed to look like a manila envelope on one side and was labeled in all capital letters, “ELECTION ALERT,” “VOTER VIOLATION,” “PUBLIC RECORD,” and “FURTHER ACTION NEEDED.”
On the other side, the mailer said in red letters at the top, “VOTING VIOLATION.” The text then reads:
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.
The mailer then listed his and Steffany's name, along with five of their neighbors.
Hinkeldy was annoyed by the mailer, and tweeted “Hey @tedcruz your brilliant public shaming campaign has inspired me to caucus on Monday...For @marcorubio.” He confirmed that he had been leaning towards Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and hadn't yet completely made up his mind, but the mailer “took me over the edge finally.”
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.”
Another Iowan, Braddock Massey, tweeted a photo of his copy of the mailer:
A review of Iowa voter files was able to confirm all but one of the names on Massey's mailer as registered voters on that street.
The reaction on Twitter was swift, and largely negative. Many viewed the mailer as a privacy violation. As the mailer notes, the information on it was pulled from public records, and that is legal, but printing the names and voter records like that, along with the implication that the neighbors are seeing the same information, is unsettling to some. The Iowa Supervisor of Elections does not actually assign voter grades like this mailer implies.
“These kind of mailers are fraught with risk,” said Republican media strategist Rick Wilson, who has done some work for a Rubio Super PAC. “They do work, but the social pressure stuff has got to be subtle. This, on the other hand, is like a sledgehammer.”
Similar mailers were sent out during the 2012 race to encourage people to vote for Barack Obama, and were also met with condemnation.
Whether Cruz's mailer will be effective in turning out Iowa caucus voters — for him or for another candidate! — remains to be seen. Massey was already a Rubio supporter and Hinkeldey was leaning that way. We'll know for sure on Monday.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.