The Ted Cruz campaign for president took a chance booking a venue as large as the Harriet Island Pavilion in St. Paul for a rally.
Not to worry. Thursday night, 500-plus Cruz supporters packed the place, a testament to the Texas senator’s increasing strength in the Republican field of presidential candidates. They cheered, hooted, and hollered at the candidate who spits out bites of his conservative philosophy with a Texas drawl and John Wayne simplicity.
When he is president, he said, “We will have a president willing to utter the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ ”
When he is president, he said, “We will take on … the alphabet soup of federal agencies that descend like locusts,” destroying businesses.
When he is president, he said, he would padlock the IRS building and “take all 90 thousand [employees] and put them down on our southern border.” “That’s somewhat tongue in cheek,” he added, addressing the qualifier to the national and local media in attendance.
His supporters say they believe he will keep his promises. “I like that he’s bold. I like that he says he what thinks, that he’s willing to stand up to bullies,” said Jessie Nordvall of Savage.
Cruz displayed that directness to reporters as he doubled-down on positions he took during the Republican candidate debate Tuesday. “I oppose amnesty. I oppose citizenship. I oppose legalization for those here illegally,” he said, referring to the jousting match between him and Sen. Marco Rubio about immigration legislation.
He scorned criticism from Hillary Clinton and others that his proposal to “carpet-bomb” ISIS strongholds was naïve foreign policy. “Democrats and many of their supporters in the mainstream media have howled loudly at the notion that we would have a commander in the chief that would actually stand up and be serious about defeating ISIS,” he said. “If am elected president, we will not weaken, we will not degrade ISIS. We will utterly destroy ISIS. We will carpet bomb them into oblivion and any militant across the face of the planet will understand if they go and join ISIS, if they take up arms and wage jihad against innocent Americans they are signing their death warrant.”
Comments like that are “hurtful, divisive, and downright dangerous rhetoric,” said Minnesota DFL party chair Ken Martin in a statement.
But Minnesota Republicans, like conservatives in other caucus states where Cruz is focusing his efforts, appear to be coalescing around his candidacy. By a two to one margin, Cruz won a recent straw poll taken at a Minnesota GOP leadership convention. His state campaign says Cruz is now well positioned to win the Minnesota Republican caucuses on March 1.
“People are tired of what I call campaign conservatives, people who talk a good game on the trail but haven’t walked the walk,” Cruz said before he addressed the crowd. He referred to supporters as “that old Reagan coalition come back together,” who during the caucus and primary season next year will unite behind his candidacy.