Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is set to campaign in St. Paul on Thursday night, at a moment when he has vaulted to the front ranks of Republican presidential contenders.
Cruz is scheduled to speak at about 6 p.m. at the Harriet Island Pavilion. It's his second stop on a fly-around to 12 cities in the next seven days, most of which are in states including Minnesota that are holding presidential primaries or caucuses on March 1, Super Tuesday.
The Texas senator is among the handful of Republican campaigns putting an early focus on winning Minnesota's March 1 caucus. Earlier this month, Cruz handily won a straw poll of about 300 influential Republican activists conducted at a party meeting.
Cruz's Minnesota organizer, Brandon Lerch, has been assembling a grassroots campaign operation in Minnesota since June. Lerch was once an aide to former Minnesota U.S. Reps. Gil Gutknecht and Michele Bachmann. He also worked for Iowa's U.S. Rep. Steve King, a high-profile conservative and one of Cruz's key backers in the state with the nation-leading caucus.
Several other Republican candidates already have organizers on the ground in Minnesota -- a few who are paid, some working on a volunteer basis.
Ron Carey, a former state GOP chairman, is on the payroll of retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Jennifer DeJournett, the founder of a Minnesota-based group that cultivates women candidates to run for office as Republicans, is the Minnesota state director for Carly for America, a super PAC supporting former Hewelett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. Zavier Bicott, the chairman of the Minnesota Young Republicans, is Rand Paul's paid Minnesota organizer.
Working on a volunteer basis for their candidates, at least so far, are Lerch; as well as Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson and a few of his longtime aides, who have been putting in time organizing on behalf of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has no visible political operation yet in Minnesota, though he did raise about $150,000 at a private fundraiser last week in Minnesota. And there are no signs that businessman Donald Trump has so far lined up anyone to lead his campaign in Minnesota.