Paul Steinhauser: Ted Cruz touts 'breathtaking' support
BARRINGTON - Ted Cruz says he can "absolutely" compete with the big bucks that Jeb Bush is expected to raise.
And asked in a one-on-one interview with NH1 News whether Bush is conservative enough for Republican voters, the first-term senator from Texas and likely GOP presidential candidate said "that's' a decision for the primary voters to make."
Cruz spoke to NH1 Sunday after exciting a crowd of more than 300 mostly conservative activists at a Strafford County Republican Committee "chili and chat" that was held at the Barrington offices of Turbocam International, which makes component parts for aerospace, aviation and automotive and industrial applications.
Cruz also talked with NH1 on Monday morning, after he headlined a Politics and Eggs speaking series event at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.
At the Strafford County event, the son of a pastor led the crowe in the opening prayer. Soon after he threw red meat to the audience, joking that "I understood the first invitation to come to this event went to Hillary Clinton but apparently she couldn't get a foreign nation to foot the bill."
And his vows to repeal Obamacare, "repeal every word of Common Core," abolish the IRS, and "adopt a simple flat tax," all received hearty applause from the crowd.
While Cruz told the audience that he hasn't made up his mind on a White House run, he did hint at things to come, saying "a week ago I was in Iowa, Yesterday I was in South Carolina. Today I'm in New Hampshire."
And he told the crowd to stay tuned. One activist who traveled to the event from Massachusetts was already sold, standing up and loudly saying to applause that "we need Ted Cruz. and I don't care who he runs with. We need him."
After the speech, the same man attempted to give Cruz a blank check, telling the senator to write in whatever amount he needed. Cruz, aware that accepting the donation would force his hand on a White House run, declined the offer but told an aide to follow up with the man.
Can "absolutely" compete with Bush.
Later, Cruz opened up to NH1 about his presidential ambitions.
"I'm looking at running for president very seriously. The support we're seeing on the ground is incredible. I mean it's breathtaking. The enthusiasm here in New Hampshire is astonishing and we're seeing it in early states across the country," Cruz said.
Cruz's stop in Barrington kicked off a two-day swing through the first-in-the-nation primary state. He later headlined a Grafton County Lincoln Day Dinner and Monday is scheduled to speak at the Politics and Eggs series, a must attend event for anyone seriously considering a White House bid.
His visit comes on the heels of stops in the Granite State Friday and Saturday by Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who are considered the early front-runners in the race for the GOP nomination.
Asked if he can compete with the big bucks that Bush, the former Florida governor and son and brother to former presidents, is expected to raise, Cruz said "absolutely."
"Jeb Bush will shatter every fundraising record ever set. They've set a goal this first quarter of raising $100 million. It wouldn't surprise me if Jeb does much more than that, if he blows past $100 million."
"Among donors, Jeb Bush represents Mick Jagger and the Beatles rolled all in one. But at the end of the day races are not decided by donors in fancy fundraisers. Races are decided by actual primary voters, by people on the ground. And I'll tell you the support we're seeing at the grassroots is breathtaking and in my experience, grassroots plus money beats a whole lot more money every time," Cruz added.
And Cruz noted that "the last four years I've raised over $22 million, under federal hard money limits, and with the support we're seeing, I am more and more confident that we will have the financial resources to compete and compete vigorously."
During the event, Cruz took numerous questions from the audience. The first came from a voter who asked about the role of wealthy donors in politics. Cruz said that super-rich donors should have the same right to write big campaign checks as regular voters have to put campaign signs on their front yards, adding that both were signs of political free speech.
"I believe everyone here has a right to speak out on politics as effectively as possible," Cruz said.
Bush conservative enough?
Cruz seemed to compare Bush to Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney, former GOP presidential nominees who were anything but favorites of the right. All three men lost in the general election.
"What they did didn't work. And if we nominate another candidate in the same mold, the same voters who stayed home in '08 and '12 will stay home in '16 and Hillary Clinton's the next president," Cruz said.
Cruz added that "I think the answer is just like in 1980," when Ronald Reagan, who was beloved by conservatives, won the GOP nomination and then defeated incumbent Democratic President Jimmy Carter in the general election.
On Monday, Cruz elaborated even further, telling NH1 that "every time the Republican Party looks to the mushy middle, every time the Republican Party nominates the candidate that all of the Washington pundits say is quote the most electable, that candidate loses."
Cruz came under attack a few days ago from former New Hampshire GOP Chairman Fergus Cullen, who Friday night hosted a meet-and-greet at his Dover home for Bush. Cullen said in an interview that Cruz represents "everything that is wrong with the Republican Party, adding that "Ted Cruz is someone who will not darken our doorstep."
Asked by NH1 about those critical comments, Cruz said "if people want to throw insults and rocks at me, they're welcome to. I have no intention of reciprocating."
Early in his comments to the audience, Cruz said that "the Obama-Clinton foreign policy of leading from behind, the whole world is on fire."
Cruz paused when a little girl sitting with her mother in the front row asked if "the world is on fire?"
"Yes. Your world's on fire," responded Cruz, to the laughter of the audience.
"But you know what. Your mommy's here and everyone's here to make sure that the world you grow up in is even better."
Six year old OK with daddy running for president
Cruz is the father to two little girls. He says his whole family's on board if he does decide to run for the White House.
Opening up about his wife Heidi, Cruz said "she' s my best friend. We are partners in everything we do. And when I ran for Senate, she was by my side. Everything we do we do together. And then our two little girls, Caroline and Catherine, Caroline is six, Catherine is four. They are the loves of our life. We do everything together as a family."
And he shared a story about getting a thumbs up on a presidential run from his eldest daughter.
"Heidi and I live right now in a high-rise condo in Houston. That's a fairly small condo there. And Caroline told me about a month ago, our six year old, she looked at me and said ‘OK dad, I've decided it's OK if you run for president. Because if you win, Snowflake our puppy will finally have a backyard to pee in."