Cruz sets up showdown with Paul in Iowa

 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) staked out a position as a staunch defender of religious liberty and conservative positions on social issues during a Tuesday visit to Iowa.

Cruz did not directly criticize Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in his remarks, but did seek to distinguish himself from the Kentucky Republican, who has said the GOP should "agree to disagree" on social issues.

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In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Cruz said Republicans “should continue to defend life and that we should continue to defend traditional marriage.”

Asked directly about Paul’s suggestion that the GOP should shift its focus away from social issues, Cruz said only “I’ll let him characterize his views.”

“What I can tell you is my views are that we should continue to defend life and that we should continue to defend traditional marriage,” he added.

Tuesday was Cruz's fourth stop this year in Iowa, making him the most frequent visitor to the pivotal early primary state among potential Republican presidential contenders except for Paul.

Both men are thinking about running for president in 2016, and they'd be battling for the same or similar slices of conservative voters in Iowa.

In his keynote address for the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators' annual state Capitol lobbying day, Cruz slammed President Obama and declared, to a warm reception from the crowd, that there “is no liberty more important than religious liberty.”

“We have never seen an administration with such hostility toward religious faith,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

Cruz also defended school choice as “the civil rights issue of the 21st century,” according to the Des Moines Register.

Iowa’s GOP caucuses are typically populated with evangelical Christians and social conservative voters, and Cruz’s Tuesday pitch seemed tailored to that audience.