Ted Cruz supporters kick off presidential draft effort

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at the CPAC Conference, on March 6, 2014 in National Harbor, Md.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Supporters of Sen. Ted Cruz launched a campaign Wednesday to draft the firebrand Texas Republican to run for president in 2016.

The website RunTedRun.com went live Wednesday and seeks one million signatures for a petition urging Cruz to run, because "America needs a principled and fearless leader" who can "defeat someone with a political machine like Hillary Clinton."

As of Wednesday afternoon, only a few hundred people have submitted their names and email addresses - a valuable resource for any upstart group trying to build a grassroots army.

Raz Shafer, a former Cruz staffer, said he quit his job to run the organization.

"I worked on the ground here in Texas to elect him to the U.S. Senate and I served as one of his regional directors until end of February," Shafer said in a column for conservative website RedState. "During that time, I saw an honest leader who consistently and courageously fought for the principles of freedom that this country was founded upon."

The group is formally called Draft Ted Cruz for President and filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission back in January. The group is an independent expenditure committee, more commonly known as a "super PAC," and can raise unlimited funds.

The website is registered to Paul Kilgore, a Georgia-based political consultant who is listed as the organization's treasurer in official FEC filings. His firm, Professional Data Services, provides campaign finance work for about two dozen Republican members of Congress and a handful of political action committees.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Kilgore said his firm was not involved with any presidential candidates in either 2012 or 2008. He declined to comment on Cruz.

Cruz enjoys fervent support in conservative circles and has attracted presidential speculation since his election to the Senate two years ago. But he isn't the only one.

Hounds of reporters seemingly follow the every step of Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., two Republicans who are publicly flirting with potential White House bids.

There is also an effort to draft Dr. Ben Carson, a noted neurosurgeon who caught the eye of many in the Republican Party with his fiery speeches at the Conservative Political Action Conference and ardent opposition to President Barack Obama's health care law.

Presidential super PACs are engaged on the Democratic side as well.

Only months after the last presidential election, allies of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton formed a super PAC called Ready for Hillary to organize community-level supporters for a presidential run in 2016. The group raised more than $4 million last year.

Priorities USA Action, the super PAC that spent millions of dollars to support Mr. Obama's re-election bid, shifted its mission this year to support Clinton. The super PAC courts wealthy donors who can write six-figure checks to fund aggressive media blitzes.

With the increasing influence of super PACs in American politics, presidential posturing is beginning earlier than ever this time around. The election is still 966 days away.