News Column

Ted Cruz Heads for Corn Belt

October 25, 2013

Erin Murphy, Telegraph-Herald

ted cruz
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (file photo)

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican and the architect of the ambitious yet ultimately unsuccessful bid to cripple the new federal health care law during federal budget negotiations, is bringing his brand of conservatism to Iowa.

Cruz is the keynote speaker for the Republican Party of Iowa's Reagan Dinner on Friday evening in Des Moines. For his supporters, the timing could not be better.

Over the past month, Cruz's national profile has ballooned. His health care law fight - highlighted by a 21-hour speech on the Senate floor - led Republicans into a showdown with Democrats that resulted in a partial government shutdown for more than two weeks.

The tactics thrust the freshman senator into the national spotlight. Since that marathon floor speech and throughout the shutdown, Cruz has been all over the national news.

Now, he's coming to Iowa.

"The timing, I think, worked out really well with the senator's historic filibuster in D.C. really bringing attention to the failure that Obamacare is," said Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker, using Republicans' derisive term for the health care law. "We're thrilled to have him."

It's not unlike earlier this year, when U.S. Sen. Rand Paul spoke at an Iowa GOP event shortly after his 13-hour Senate-floor, talking filibuster, in which he demanded from the administration an answer to questions on U.S. drone strikes.

Spiker said Friday's event is sold out. The party sold more than 600 tickets at prices ranging from $100 to $1,000.

Spiker expects about 50 media members to cover the event. C-SPAN will televise it live.

Cruz certainly can claim credit for the interest. He has excited the Republican Party's conservative base. Tea party activists, in particular, have hailed Cruz for his efforts to run the new health care law off its tracks.

"It's going to be exciting. We're hoping he's going to give us a breath of fresh air," said Michael Heeren, co-founder of the Dubuque tea party group.

Of course, not all of the attention Cruz earned has been positive.

He has become a polarizing figure, obviously between parties but even among Republicans. While many conservatives hailed Cruz for his effort to defund or delay implementation of the health care law, others criticized him for dragging the party into a losing battle. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., has called Cruz a "fraud."

Cruz's arrival in Iowa highlights the divide within the Republican Party. Spiker, a libertarian, extolled Cruz's efforts, while Republican Gov. Terry Branstad gave a more cautious endorsement.

"He's a bright, young guy. He's just one of 100 members of the Senate. I think we should hear from all viewpoints," Branstad told reporters when asked about Cruz earlier this week.

Rick Holman, chairman of the Dubuque County Republicans, pointed to the contrasts.

"That in itself is a microcosm of what you're seeing nationally," Holman said. "It's a battle within the party right now - the middle class conservatives vs. the big business crony class conservatives. It's interesting. That's for sure."

So not all Republicans are singing Cruz's praises, and his effort to crack the health care law was a decisive, if perhaps temporary, political defeat - the budget negotiations ultimately resulted only in a very minor tweak to the law.

However, it would be unwise to expect Cruz to hit the stage in Des Moines with his tail between his legs. In the wake of the shutdown, Cruz stood by his actions.

During weekend national TV news broadcasts, Cruz reiterated his desire to stop the health care law. He said he would "do anything" to accomplish that end. He also remained defiant in the wake of critics within his party, even those in leadership roles.

"I don't work for the party bosses in Washington," he said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Attempts to reach Cruz for comment on this story were unsuccessful.

Cruz's defiance and willingness to stand his ground are a big part of what excites conservatives.

"It's just a matter of, if you're sending Republicans to Congress, the voters expect them to do the things they promised. That doesn't seem to be happening in the eyes of some (conservatives)," said Tim Hagle, a political science professor at the University of Iowa. "He'll be speaking more to the base at an event like this, more so than the so-called establishment Republicans."

That base in Iowa is fired up and ready.

"He's finally a Republican that is standing up for the middle class and " not giving in to big business, the big special interests. I think that's pretty outstanding," Holman said. "I just think it's refreshing to have a politician break away from the smoke- filled back rooms and stand up for the Constitution and what's right."

(c) 2013 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

Original headline: Cruz to visit Iowa

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Source: (c) 2013 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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