July 31, 2013

Is Ted Cruz the new face of the Republican Party?

The Texas senator says activists are calling out for an unflinching, uncompromising presidential candidate. Someone, he says, like him.

By Wayne Slater / The Dallas Morning News

(Continued from page 1)

U.S. Senator Cruz, flanked by Senator Lee and Senator Vitter, speaks against pending immigration legislation during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington
click image to enlarge

Ted Cruz seemed to be a hit on his first visit to Iowa two weeks ago, where he met and impressed a group of Christian conservatives who have played roles before in the Iowa caucuses.


If they don't this time, Johnson warned, "we would be looking at a Jeb Bush or a Chris Christie or a Scott Walker or a Marco Rubio nomination, which would be disastrous."

Bush, the former Florida governor, and Christie, the New Jersey chief executive, are considered too moderate by many Christian conservatives and tea party activists. Florida Sen. Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Walker are supporting a bipartisan approach to immigration including a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally.


Into the conflicting currents pulling the Republican Party in opposite directions comes Cruz. He's an unapologetic critic of the bipartisan immigration bill. He has rubbed fellow Republicans the wrong way by calling those open to compromise on gun legislation "a bunch of squishes."

Cruz made his first trip to Iowa this month. At a state GOP picnic of pork sandwiches and lemonade, Cruz declared himself proud be called a "wacko bird" by McCain for his unyielding adherence to the tea party.

Sam Clovis of Sioux City said he liked the Texan's direct, nuance-free style.

"I don't think Ted Cruz is pandering to anyone," Clovis said.

Cruz's style has some Republicans concerned that he'd lead the party into electoral oblivion, particularly with the tough stance on immigration that could alienate Hispanic voters. Others have expressed concern about a candidate with so little experience -- the very thing many Republicans lamented about Barack Obama in 2008.

But his skill on the campaign trail is drawing attention. Even when Cruz hedges an answer, it doesn't sound like it. When an Iowa Republican at the fundraiser declared that the U.S. has become "a police state" that spies on its citizens, Cruz paused and put on a thoughtful face.

"We need to be vigorous in protecting the national security of the United States, and that means finding and stopping radical Islamic terrorists," Cruz said. "At the same time, we need to protect the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens. And both of them are possible and serve the same end."

It was a political answer, landing on both sides at once. But it was delivered with a rhetorical skill first evinced at Princeton, where he was a champion debater. Cruz was equally equivocal on whether he has his sights on the presidency in 2016, dismissing such talk as premature.

A veteran Iowa radio reporter asked Cruz when he'd be back in Iowa.

It was a question about more than scheduling. Politicians who don't know when they'll be back are just visitors, but those who are serious presidential hopefuls know exactly when they're returning.

Cruz, without hesitation, noted that he'll be back in August to address a conservative group.


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