Washington Bureau

08.10.13

Ted Cruz Gets An Early Start For 2016

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is already winning over Iowans more than two years before the caucuses.

Ted Cruz claimed he was in Iowa to escape the August heat in Texas. Yeah right.

The first term Texas senator gave a campaign stump speech to the crowd of social conservatives gathered in Ames, Iowa for the Family Leader conference on Saturday.  Cruz held the crowd of about 500 in the palm of his hand. They laughed at his jokes, hissed at his political opponents and rose to their feet for his applause lines.

Cruz nominally framed his remarks around his effort to defund Obamacare by preventing Congress from passing a budget that funds President Obama’s signature law.  This would risk a government shutdown and has faced opposition from many Republicans and virtually all Democrats.  He cited the need for a grassroots army of millions of Americans to rise up to stop Obamacare and tried to build its ranks by having attendees share their phone number with him via text message. Obviously, Cruz would have no ulterior motive for collecting the phone number of hundreds of politically active Iowa social conservatives.

To explain the influence of the grassroots, Cruz told the crowd that he wanted to talk about the rise of the grass roots in three different time periods past, present and future. But, unlike other speakers who harkened back to the American Revolution when talking about the past, Cruz referenced his 2012 Senate primary instead to burnish his anti-establishment credentials and flesh out his biography to the audience.

Cruz gave the crowd red meat on just about every issue they desired. He likes the Second Amendment, secure borders and low taxes; and he dislikes abortion, the IRS and the Republican establishment.  It had an effect.

Jamie Johnson, who is a member of the Republican Party of Iowa’s state central committee and Santorum’s coalitions director in 2012, was already on board with Cruz ’16.  It didn’t matter whether Santorum ran again or not, Johnson thought Cruz was the candidate who captured the zeitgeist (although he didn’t think Cruz should put that on a yard sign).  

After Cruz’s speech, a crowd of reporters and fans waited eagerly for the chance to talk and even get an autograph. Donald Trump may have been talking inside the room but no one cared. After all Trump may have been a celebrity but he wasn’t Ted Cruz.