Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is making a clear pitch to millennial voters as he makes a bid to win the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, but young professionals wanting to attend one of his events on Wednesday will have to shell out a minimum of $250 for the privilege of meeting with him.
Along with an e-mail invitation to attend a “young professionals event” for Sen. Cruz at The Campbell Apartment, a swanky cocktail bar in midtown Manhattan, invitees are told the minimum required for attending is $250 and they should fill out an attached form that asks anywhere from $250 for an individual to $10,800 for a couple.
Of course, many politicians charge well more than $250 to meet a presidential candidate. But critics say the price tag seems particularly steep when Cruz is specifically targeting young people who may be hard-pressed for that kind of money.
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“The senator is thrilled that so many of you will be able to attend. As you can imagine, this is a very exciting time for all of us in the Cruz campaign and I’m glad that you will all get to be part of the journey!” invitees are told. The invitation itself -- which makes no mention about the minimum donation -- says it is paid for by the Ted Cruz Victory Committee.
Some young would-be attendees expressed angst that the price to attend was too high.
Brandon Faske, 22, who works in marketing for NBC Universal, msnbc's parent company, told a Cruz staffer via email after learning about the $250 price tag: “Having just graduated school with a burden of student loan debt, I can’t really afford the donation at this time, but will of course look to contribute monetarily and in other ways down the line. I hope I can still attend.” Lila Ontiveros, a Cruz staffer, wrote back that the senator understands, as Cruz himself recently paid off his school loans, but indicated he still would not be able to attend. “We will keep you in mind for future NYC trips!” she wrote.
Another millennial working in public relations in Manhattan -- who wanted to attend but isn’t due to the cost -- told msnbc, “$250 is extremely steep for any young professional, unless they are coming from a privileged background.”
Rick Tyler, a spokesperson for Cruz for President, said he couldn't offer details on the price of the New York event, and referred questions to event organizers, who did not return msnbc's requests for comment. Tyler also noted, however, that Cruz recently paid off student loans and went to school when his parents were struggling and that he uniquely “relates to the students and their experience.”
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Tyler said as Cruz, 44, lays the groundwork for his 2016 campaign, he’ll talk about issues that matter to young voters, including the economy, how entrepreneurial startups are hurt by current federal regulations and education. “Young voters have the most stake in our future. They have the most interest in an economy that is growing and expanding.”
Indeed, Cruz is clearly appealing to millennials. He selected Liberty University – the world’s largest Christian college—on Monday to make his presidential ambitions known in front of thousands of students. On St. Patrick’s Day he drank green beer at an event in Arlington, Va. filled with young conservatives.
But Cruz may have an uphill battle as he pushes a message to repeal Obamacare (which allows Americans under 26 to stay on their parents’ health plan), has vehemently spoken out against the president’s executive action on immigration (which expands a 2012 program that provides some relief to young people brought to the country illegally as children), and has he talks about defending the “sanctity of human life” and protecting the “sacrament of marriage.” This isn't exactly what all the kids are talking about at college campuses around America.
Jeanne Zaino, a professor of political science at Iona College and of political campaign management at New York University, said Cruz is likely trying to make inroads with a constituency that fellow tea partier and all but likely presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has done well with in the past – and to muscle him out before he officially jumps into the race in early April.
“I do think he is going to face some trouble,” Zaino said on Cruz winning young voters over. "Yes, he talks about populism and economic inequality but in terms of social views, he’s alienating many young people. He’s going to face trouble on that end.”