First on CNN: Rand Paul hires Ted Cruz's digital guru

Story highlights

  • Rand Paul's team is adding digital strategist Vincent Harris to its political operation
  • Harris and his firm previously worked for Ted Cruz, a potential 2016 rival for Paul
Vincent Harris, Ted Cruz's top digital operative, is leaving the Texas senator's team to work for Sen. Rand Paul's political operation, as the jostling for staff ramps up ahead of the 2016 GOP presidential primary contest.
Harris will join Rand Paul's political action committee and his 2016 team as a chief digital strategist, according to Doug Stafford, executive director of RAND PAC.
Stafford said Harris will sit at the "top of the leadership team," as Paul and his inner circle carry out what's expected to be a dizzying political schedule. Paul will likely announce his Senate re-election bid in the coming days, and he's said he'll make a decision on a White House run in the spring.
Cruz has also kept the door open to a 2016 presidential campaign.
Paul's team was attracted to Harris' push for Republicans to make digital operations a more robust part of campaigns, Stafford said. "We want to be leaders on that," he continued, saying Harris will focus on strategies involving data, websites, and social media among other things.
Harris, 26, runs Harris Media, a digital strategy firm based out of Austin that has more than 20 employees. The firm helped reinvent Sen. Mitch McConnell's digital presence ahead of the Kentucky senator's successful re-election win this fall.
While Harris has had a number of widely-known clients — Rick Perry, Rick Scott, Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich — he gained a higher profile of his own after helping Cruz defeat Lt. Gov David Dewhurst for the GOP Senate nomination in 2012, throttling Cruz from a long-shot candidate who had never run for office to one of the biggest upset candidates of the year.
Harris said he sent his resignation letter to Cruz's team Monday, and he's "very excited" to work for Paul's team, saying it will be his his firm's "marquee client" in the next election cycle.
A staunch opponent to the NSA's domestic surveillance programs, Paul has sought to make himself a key ally for Silicon Valley and the tech world. His team plans to open a San Francisco office, where he's traveled multiple times this year, and he's trying to use his tech-savvy focus to connect with young voters on college campuses.
Harris, who lives in Austin but plans to travel frequently to Washington and Louisville, said there's a host of programmers and designers in Austin who "aren't excited about a lot of potential 2016 candidates but who are very excited about Rand Paul."
"I don't think there's going to be any problem in finding top-tiered talent," he said, adding Paul's team "will be embracing the tech community with open arms."
Harris, like Paul, attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where Harris teaches a political science course twice a week.