Conservative purist Ted Cruz addressed the concerns of any Iowa Republicans who reject him as too rigid, arguing he knows exactly how to unify the GOP and turn the country around.
The answer: “Restore historic economic growth.”
Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas who has visited the presidential testing grounds of Iowa three times in less than three months, told an audience of about 600 at the Republican Party of Iowa’s annual Ronald Reagan fundraising dinner: “We need to come together.”
“And let me tell you, growth and principles are ideas that unify Republicans,” he said. “They are principles and ideals that unify the evangelical community, the liberty movement and the business community. Growth and freedom are principles that bring together Main Street and the tea party.”
Last month, Cruz kicked off a controversial campaign to stymie Obamacare, the federal law requiring most Americans to carry health insurance, with a 21-hour pseudo-filibuster. The battle between conservative and Democratic members of Congress led to a 16-day federal government shutdown and took the country to what some Americans considered an alarming near-default on its debts.
The Des Moines Register reported Friday that some Iowa Republicans believe Cruz is the embodiment of the war inside the GOP. They see him as the tip of the spear of anti-establishment rage that is tearing apart the coalition of Republicans that has existed since the Reagan era: fiscal conservatives, social conservatives and national security conservatives.
If Cruz were to run for president, his campaign might leave him with only the fiercest tea party defenders, in the view of center-right activists and some political strategists.
Cruz: United GOP can protect nation
In a 45-minute speech, Cruz said over and over that working “collectively” is the only way to protect the nation from those who want to impose health insurance mandates, pile on more national debt, assault gun rights and hurt other constitutional rights.
It was the GOP’s failure to stand together, he said, that killed the effort to defund Obamacare.
“We didn’t accomplish our ultimate policy goal in this battle, and we didn’t because unfortunately a significant number of Senate Republicans chose not to unite and stand side by side with House Republicans,” he said. “Had we stood together, I’m convinced the outcome of this fight would be very, very different. But listen, none of us ever thought that taking on the Washington establishment was going to be easy.”
He added: “Right now, I’m more encouraged than ever.”
As Cruz took the stage, the audience greeted him with a 36-second standing ovation.
“I promise that I’ll do everything humanly possible to try to speak for less than 21 hours,” he said, referring to his Sept. 24 Senate floor speech. “You know I’m nearing the end when I bring out and begin to read ‘The Cat in the Hat.’ ’’
Twenty-one hours, he said, is a long time.
“That’s almost as long as it takes to sign up on the Obamacare website,” he said. Healthcare.gov, a site meant to help millions of uninsured Americans sign up for health insurance, has been plagued by technical glitches.
Upset with leaders, some skip the event
When Cruz came to Iowa in July, he had his father, a Cuban immigrant, in tow. This time, his wife, Heidi, was by his side. He made repeated references to their two young daughters, Catherine and Caroline.
Some center-right Republicans skipped the traditional fundraising dinner to express distaste for both Cruz and the current liberty movement-oriented leadership at party headquarters.
Republican Party of Iowa Co-Chairman David Fischer referenced that rift in his opening remarks.
“There are some of the old guard in the Grand Old Party that frankly don’t approve of the kind of principled leadership being shown by the new conservative leaders like Sens. Cruz, (Rand) Paul and (Mike) Lee,” he said, referring to the conservative senators from Texas, Kentucky and Utah.
“Some Republicans have even gone so far as to call them names. Well, I have a name for these new leaders, too,” Fischer said. “I call them the future.”
Republicans describe the party’s fissure in different ways.
A center-right national strategist, Mike Murphy, has been talking this week about what he sees as two schools of thought in the GOP.
The “mathematicians” look at the GOP’s losing streak and say the party needs to make real changes to attract voters beyond the old Republican base of white guys, Murphy told the Washington Post.
The “priests” are focused on sins that the GOP is against, and they argue a lack of ideological purity is what loses elections, Murphy said.
Cruz scoffs at label of purist and priest
When the Register asked Cruz where he falls, he scoffed.
“I do always find it amusing that political strategists who manage to lose national elections immediately share their wisdom to others about how to continue losing national elections,” he said in an interview earlier in the week.
Politicians can be hybrids of the two categories — politics is about the spectrum, not the absolutes, center-right strategists say.
But not Cruz, Murphy told the Register in an email Friday night.
He’s a purist and a priest, Murphy said.
“It’s not a question of purity,” Cruz told the Register. “It’s a question of standing for common-sense conservative principles that are shared throughout this country that have been part of the American fabric of every small town and every small business and in families all across this country.”
Cruz said every modern Republican presidential candidate who ran as a strong conservative won — Nixon in 1968 and 1972, Reagan in 1980 and 1984, George H.W. Bush in 1988, George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.
And those that ran as an establishment moderate lost — Ford in 1976, George H.W. Bush in 1992, Dole in 1996, McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012, Cruz said.
“After looking at that 40-year pattern,” he said, “the D.C. strategists all say we need more establishment moderates because they haven’t won in four decades, but next time, trust us, they’re going to win. That’s not a pattern to electoral success.”
State chair resists watering down GOP
The Register interviewed 10 Republicans at the dinner, and each firmly agreed that division in the GOP means trouble.
“Political parties are designed to win elections. It’s the only reason they exist,” said Keith Christiansen, 18, a student at Grand View University in Des Moines. “You cannot control the government if your party is fighting amongst itself. The in-fighting is horrible.”
But the chairman of the Iowa GOP, A.J. Spiker, told the audience that conservatives at the right-most side of the spectrum aren’t budging.
“The Republican Party is at a crossroads to determine the type of party it wishes to be,” he said.
Those in “the permanent political establishment” who say it’s necessary to water down the GOP message to try to win elections, Spiker said, won’t succeed.
— Jennifer Jacobshttp://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20131026/NEWS09/310260056/Iowa-audience-embraces-Sen-Ted-Cruz?Frontpage&nclick_check=1