Cruz to get hero's welcome in Iowa, NH

Conservatives in Iowa and New Hampshire are preparing a hero’s welcome for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) after he showed up Senate Republican leaders during a crucial vote on the debt limit. 

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Cruz infuriated his Senate Republican colleagues this week when he filibustered a clean bill to raise the debt limit. His objection forced Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and 11 other Republicans to vote with Democrats to advance the legislation.

But in Iowa and New Hampshire, two important presidential primary states, conservative activists are cheering Cruz’s stand and buzzing about a possible presidential run in 2016.

Activists in the two states said they plan to show Cruz their appreciation when he visits in March and April.

“A tickertape parade,” said Steve Deace, a conservative radio host based in Iowa when asked what kind of reception Cruz will receive from activists next month.

“At this point with grassroots conservatives around the country it’s a close vote between who they distrust the most, the president, [Speaker] John Boehner [R-Ohio] or Mitch McConnell,” he said.

Ann Ray Trimble, a conservative activist in Iowa, said she and her allies are thrilled that Cruz took on his colleagues.

“It plays very well because the rank-and-file conservative in Iowa is a law-and-order person who believes, as Sen. Cruz stated in his objection, that the rules are the rules, the laws are the laws, and we need to follow them and not break them for political expediency.”

Cruz will speak on March 18 at a homeschooling rally hosted by the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators in Des Moines.

On April 12, he will attend the New Hampshire Freedom Summit, an event sponsored by Americans For Prosperity and Citizens United, Tea Party-allied groups, along with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, two other potential candidates for president in 2016.

Greg Moore, the state director of Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire, said conservative activists who will gather at the rally applauded Cruz’s action and want to see more transparency in Washington.

“They want to see people take a stand one way or the other. ‘Where do you stand on spending? How serious are you about spending?’ Fiscal issues are huge in New Hampshire,” said Moore.

“Our activists want to see a great deal of accountability,” he added. “They would look at any opportunity bringing accountability as positive for Sen. Cruz.”

Cruz’s Republican colleagues, however, did not appreciate his filibuster. They held a tense and angry meeting Wednesday afternoon at which McConnell proposed waiving the 60-vote threshold normally required to advance legislation, according to sources familiar with the session.

Cruz stood up and declared he would not let his fellow Republicans to escape responsibility for advancing the debt-limit bill. He said he would force at least five Republicans to vote with Democrats to overcome the procedural hurdle.

A Senate Republican aide described the meeting as “very contentious.”

Cruz further inflamed his colleagues by accusing them of trying to mislead the public after the vote.

“In the 13 months I’ve been in the Senate it has become apparent to me the single thing that Republican politicians hate and fear the most … is when they’re forced to tell the truth. It makes their heads explode,” Cruz told conservative radio host Mark Levin. “The Republicans members of the Senate, they all wanted the perfect show vote.”

“They should be totally pissed at him,” said Fergus Cullen, the former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, when asked about the reaction of Cruz’s colleagues. “For him to do this after being in the Senate for one year, he’s obviously not preparing himself for a long career in the Senate.”  

Cullen acknowledged that Cruz’s tactics would likely win over conservative activists but questioned whether he has come to be viewed by centrists as too far to the right.

“I do think objectively it probably plays pretty well to the base,” he said.

“What’s your long-term aim?” Cullen added. “Are you interested in getting elected nationally? All you’re doing right now is setting up a political career that will hit its ceiling very quickly, and it’s a pretty low ceiling.”

If Cruz were to win the GOP nomination in 2016, he would need resounding support from the party’s most conservative voters. He could face stiff competition from Paul and perhaps Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008.

Chip Saltsman, a Republican strategist who managed Huckabee’s 2008 presidential campaign, predicted Cruz would have a difficult challenge trying to explain his procedural moves in the Senate to voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.

“At the end of the day Ted Cruz made McConnell have a 60-vote limit and the debt ceiling still passed. It’s not like he stopped the debt limit from being passed,” he said.

Cruz’s procedural tactics have angered his GOP colleagues throughout his short Senate career. They blasted him for waging a high-profile fight in the fall to link a government funding resolution to an effort to halt the implementation of ObamaCare.

He irked some of them in early 2013 by insisting, along with fellow Tea Party-allied conservatives, on a 60-vote threshold to proceed to a debate on gun control legislation.

Gun-rights advocates later credited Cruz for helping to defeat expanded background checks because the procedural vote offered a useful map of which Republicans might have been sympathetic to the Democratic reform proposal.

--This report was updated on Sunday at 10:57 a.m.