Jeff Roe is a Republican political strategist who most recently managed Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign. A Missouri native, Roe founded Axiom Strategies, a political consulting firm that has worked 780 races and elected fifty-two members of Congress, with a 2016 win rate of 81 percent. He was a Fall Fellow at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.
“I just want to win,” Jeff Roe explained. This is the essence of the GOP operative’s philosophy, and why he’s dreaded by opponents. The longtime political strategist shows a hard-edged style, characterized by an obsessive focus on the most direct, and not always cordial, path to electoral victory. On campus, though, he was amicable to the idea of us having a discussion about his political endeavors and uncompromising conservative ideals.
Roe’s provocative tactics are, in his view, all in the name of the “full-throated discussion” of issues that campaigns ought to offer voters. He elaborated, “The rigors of democracy are pretty tough, and require us to point out the differences in our opponent’s beliefs.” With this in mind, he never “shies away from the critiques that come from when you run a tough campaign.” There are plenty of such polemics—especially from those reeling in defeat. But in electoral politics, so goes the game.
After his fair share of state, local, and congressional campaigns, managing a presidential campaign was Roe’s ultimate ambition. Senator Ted Cruz, having announced his presidential candidacy in 2015, seemed an easy fit for Roe. “I was looking to work with someone who I believed would change the direction of the country,” he explained. Roe had plenty of high-praise for the Senator beyond just his politics, attesting, as a more personal witness, to Cruz’s virtues as a husband and father as well.
In the aftermath of the 2016 election, Roe has been integral to the national political team behind Cruz. With full Republican control of Washington, Roe feels that “the focus Senator Cruz needs now is to build relationships and coalitions among the different factions. I think he’s really good at that. It’s the muscle that he’s using now that I don’t think people knew he had.” In his current capacity, Roe’s efforts are directed toward illuminating this fresh side to the Senator—what their team refers to as “Cruz 2.0.”
The essence of Cruz is now, Roe believes, found by emphasizing his “wide range of appeal—he can go effortlessly in these different pockets of the party that very few Republicans can.” Cruz has always been popular among outside conservative groups. But amidst intra-party contention, he is also welcomed inside the heart of the Republican Party, as his relation with the administration has warmed considerably. However fitting the Texas Senator’s evolution might seem, it is easy to spot him at the center of current GOP politics. Cruz has launched from a newly elevated, post-primaries status into a sizable role within Congress.
While Cruz is ascendant, he is among few Republicans who are seizing any kind of opportunity amid the intra-party uncertainty. With Republican veterans trickling into early retirements, Roe argues that “the problem is it’s really good members of Congress,” and not necessarily the quantity, that so far matters. Early departures from party loyalists like Rep. Jeb Hensarling, currently chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, are the focus of his attention. These kinds of headlines seem to spell doom for the party, but Roe finds optimism: “I think a new broom sweeps clean. While I hate to lose good members, there’s a lot that needs to be cleaned out anyways. It’ll be good for the party.” The populist energy that has disrupted both parties is something that excites him.
He is reluctant, though, to accept a designation like “anti-establishment,” or really any one label for that matter. Roe explains how at Axiom Strategies, his private firm, “We run the full gamut,” and therefore stay away from an “overriding brand.” The essential purpose is, he notes, to “be sought after by candidates, period.” Business is business, and it’s this kind of sensitivity to the current political climate that has many Republican officeholders seeking out Axiom.
Personally, Roe laments on today’s Republican blunderings, and how so much opportunity “should mean the heyday of our party, but it’s not.” An unmistakably anti-establishment feel is engendered by his own convictions: his remedy is that the GOP “needs a big shakeup.” Despite the careful treading in his professional dealings, then, Roe’s personal philosophy seems to be much more sympathetic to today’s populist spirit.
As these currents take their toll on the party, whether the establishment or populist factions are more effective seems to not matter; Republicans seeking office will still be turning to Jeff Roe, regardless. There are simply few strategists today who so dominate the world of electoral politics.
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