Cruz's Crew: You Play The Game, But It's The Cruz Campaign That Scores Ted Cruz's campaign is hoping its app motivates supporters to volunteer and donate as well as turn over personal information.
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Cruz's Crew: You Play The Game, But It's The Cruz Campaign That Scores

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Cruz's Crew: You Play The Game, But It's The Cruz Campaign That Scores

Cruz's Crew: You Play The Game, But It's The Cruz Campaign That Scores

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, fans of Donald Trump get a hat. Make-America-great-again hats are among the campaign's major expenses, as a matter of fact. Fans of Ted Cruz get a smartphone app. The Texas senator's campaign is hoping that app will motivate voters to volunteer and also to turn over a lot of personal information. NPR's Scott Detrow reports.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Linda Stickle is a really, really big fan of Ted Cruz. When we meet in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Stickle has a Ted Cruz sticker on her sweater and a Ted Cruz sticker on her phone. And this, she says, is toned down. She's a little tired because the night before, she stayed up to watch Cruz's late-night Senate floor attack on the new budget agreement.

LINDA STICKLE: Anybody that knows me knows what I'm going to talk about.

DETROW: Stickle is all in as a Cruz volunteer. She's had the senator over to her house for a fundraiser and is the campaign's Jones County chair. These days, a lot of her organizing is done through the campaign's app.

Can you show me how it works?

STICKLE: Well, I can try (laughter).

DETROW: The app has information about upcoming campaign events among other things. But most importantly, the app is designed as a game to keep supporters on Cruz's team. People earn points by signing up to volunteer or donating money. Most of these options allow users like Stickle to share posts on their social networks.

STICKLE: So that instantly went to my friends. Every one of my friends sees this, has the ability to share it.

DETROW: Stickle swipes over to another screen on the app.

So this is your phonebook here.

STICKLE: This is my phonebook, actually. Yes, and I can send to them, I support Ted Cruz; I invite you to get on board, tedcruz.org.

DETROW: What the Cruz app also does is gather information about people's social networks and friend groups. If a supporter shares their entire phone contact list, they earn 250 points in the app. Donations only get 10 points.

CHRIS WILSON: While we don't keep anything that they share, what it does allow us to do is identify, within a person's contact list, those voters who may be part of our core targeting list.

DETROW: Chris Wilson is the Cruz campaign's director of research and analytics. He's looking for information - names, addresses, phone numbers - that match up with possible Cruz voters.

WILSON: We have scored the entire national voter file in terms of their likelihood to support Ted Cruz. And so if we identify that you have 10 friends in Iowa who are potential Cruz supporters, then we'll ask you to reach out to those people.

DETROW: The app also looks for other personal information. It asks users to sign different petitions to get a sense of what issues motivate them. Scoreboards track top point earners. When I meet Linda Stickle, she has about 10,000 points. As active as Stickle is, there's another Iowan out there with more than 50,000. Wait, check that.

STICKLE: Oh, she put on a whole bunch more points. She's got 61,000 points.

KAY QUIRK: I've been, for the most part, retired. I am on social media every day.

DETROW: Meet Kay Quirk, another county chair for Ted Cruz. Quirk is always posting Facebook and Twitter updates. Today, it's a funny picture reminding people about an upcoming debate.

QUIRK: If people like that, then I get more points on my Cruz Crew app. I get five points for every like I get.

DETROW: Quirk is light-years ahead of every other Iowan who uses Cruz's app, so far ahead that Linda Stickle has given up trying to catch her. In Cedar Rapids, Stickle eyes her closest competition on the Iowa scoreboard.

STICKLE: So I would say if I have any competition, I'm going to, like, really work hard to beat Dominic today (laughter). That's my goal.

DETROW: A worthy goal, but a goal Stickle says she puts in context. Given the choice between topping the leader board and seeing Ted Cruz in the White House, Stickle says she'd rather see a Cruz victory. Scott Detrow, NPR News.

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