The last of the 2015 Republican presidential debates is slated for Tuesday.
It’s the first debates since GOP candidate Donald Trump declared Muslims should be prohibited from entering the United States. It also comes after John Podesta, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton‘s campaign chair, told donors that his prediction for the 2016 race would be a contest between Clinton and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
Clinton has a long history in politics and a family whose history is often in the public spotlight, but not much is known about Sen. Cruz’s family beyond the story of his Cuban father, American mother and Canadian birth.
Michael Kruse spent 15 hours watching some unusual videos of candidate Cruz and wrote about the experience for Politico. The videos were posted to Cruz’s senate campaign YouTube page last summer. But Kruse says the videos went mostly unnoticed until a few weeks ago, when media outlets found them and started watching them a bit more closely.
“He is, at this point, ascendant in the GOP primaries. So I think people are looking for clues as to who is he? Who is he really?” Kruse says. “In this highly mediated, highly managed age it becomes harder and harder to know who these candidates are. In these videos there were some clues [that] certainly added to our understanding.”
The posted videos consist of footage for ads or potential material that could be used in future ads, Kruse says.
“What is interesting about these 15 hours is that they are raw, they are uncut, the camera just keeps rolling,” Kruse says. “It’s an interesting glimpse and the fact that it is so uncut in that form in those 15 hours is what in my opinion give it its value.”
The videos include long sessions with Cruz and his father, who are seasoned at public speaking. The videos also show members of Cruz’s family that have yet to make it to the spotlight – his nephew, his wife and daughters, his mother.
“The Ted Cruz family story centers mostly, or has to this point centered mostly, around his father, Cuba, their coming to Texas,” Kruse says. “What you see here that is different is that it’s a family dealing with a lot of the burdens of modern America. There are single mothers. There are half-sisters. There are step-parents mentioned. You get a sense that they’re a little bit more real than you thought and real in ways, that just average American mishmashed families are in the 21st century.”
There’s one section, for example where his wife Heidi Cruz speaks about the hardships of Cruz being gone from their home in Houston and their daughters for long stretches of time. Most weeks when Congress is in session, he gets on a plane for Washington Monday mornings.
“His wife spends some time talking about how his children miss him and consider him a ‘guest’ when he actually comes home,” Kruse says. “She tells this poignant story … about their daughters coming to Washington. They get to the apartment that he keeps there and he’s not there, he’s off giving a speech. And the youngest of his two daughters says ‘We must not be in Washington, Daddy’s not here. We’ve gone to the wrong city.’ This is the kind of thing that you sort of don’t think about or hear about too much on the campaign trail.”
Kruse says Cruz comes across as calculating in the videos.
“I mean who isn’t when they’re making material for political ads? But he certainly spends a good deal of time orchestrating scenes and cajoling certain messages he wants to have come across,” Kruse says. “You do see him being a little less scripted in coaching his family members to say certain things and to take conversations in certain directions.”
The big question is why this seemingly unedited footage was released publicly in the first place. Kruse has a guess: it takes time to untangle the unscripted moments from the less awkward soundbites, especially with interviewees that are not used to public speaking on message.
But one thing is for sure, Kruse says.
“It’s put up in such a public space to get around the rule that a campaign cannot communicate with any related super PAC,” he says. “So if the super PAC wants to make an ad for Ted Cruz, and if the campaign wants to make an ad for Ted Cruz, they can both take from the same footage without technically communicating.”