DES MOINES, Iowa -- On his first trip to the state that traditionally holds the nation's first presidential electoral contest, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz met Friday with Christian pastors and state GOP members but insisted he’s not thinking about running for president.
“I am here,” Cruz told reporters after a speech at the Iowa Republican Party headquarters here, “because I am focusing my time on trying to make the argument and win the argument that, Number one, that the free market of the United States of America has been the greatest engine of prosperity and opportunity the world has ever seen. And Number two, that our constitutional safeguards, our Bill or Rights, that protect our God-given rights that are foundational to this nation, that we need to get back to the Constitution.”
Cruz had just spoken to a small group of party activists at a luncheon fundraiser, where he implored them to pressure congressional Republicans to refuse to approve future government funding measures unless Democrats agree to repeal the 2010 federal health care law and to pass a law that beefs up border enforcement to restrict illegal immigration.
The 25-minute speech included many signs of a presidential stump speech: a brief personal biography, a moment to define the nation’s most pressing problems, an outline of policy principles and finally, a call to action. Cruz said that he’s traveling the country—by August he will have made stops more than a dozen states, including in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the three states that hold the first elections of the presidential cycle—to build what he hopes will be a network of grassroots activists.
“In my view, the men and women in this room are key to helping turn the nation around,” Cruz told the group over plates of pulled pork sandwiches and baked beans.
Although Cruz was just sworn into the Senate in January, his outspoken views and refusal to compromise with Democrats--and in some cases, Republicans--has made him an overnight sensation among the tea party wing of the party. Earlier this year, a frustrated Arizona Sen. John McCain lambasted Cruz and other conservative senators as "wacko birds," a term he has worn as a badge of pride ever since.
But even if some see presidential material in Cruz, he did not make any mention of the 2016 election during his remarks at the fundraiser. After the event, Cruz later told reporters when prompted that it was too early to consider launching a presidential bid.
“I’ve been in office all of seven months,” Cruz said when asked if he was considering running. “Prior to that, the last elected office I held was student council. It has been quite the whirl. What I can tell you is that in those seven months, I have been to over a dozen states. I’ve had over 45 events across the state of Texas doing everything I can to make and help win the argument that we can need to get back to our free market principles, we need to get back to our constitutional foundation.”
Almost in unison, about half a dozen reporters shouted, “Is that a no or a yes?”
“That,” Cruz said, “was that my focus right now is not on politics. I recognize that in the media, everything likes to be put through a political lens.”
“This is an opportunity to engage the activists who are a critical part of the national dialogue,” Cruz went on to say. “We just had a presidential race a few months ago. I’ll tell you, as a voter, it’s premature to decide who we should support. I will tell you, as a citizen and a voter, who I will support in 2016 is someone who is standing up and leading.”