Ted Cruz headlined the daytime portion of the Republican Leadership Summit in Nashua, N.H., Saturday, where 20 presidential candidates or those seriously thinking about it came to speak.
“What a testament to the desire for Americans: We want something new , we want new leadership to change the page, and to turnaround,” the 44-year-old U.S. senator from Texas said as he began his remarks.
“You know the Democratic version of this I’m pretty sure is Hillary Clinton having a conversation with a Chipotle clerk,” he said.
It was one of countless times Republicans jabbed Clinton for her clandestine appearance at the fast casual Mexican eatery last week in Ohio. It was vintage Cruz, whose red meat-filled speeches have warmed the hearts of Tea Partiers since his 2012 Senate election.
Cruz’ extraordinary public speaking skills were on full display this month when he declared his candidacy before 11,000 Liberty University students. He has the cadence, timing and delivery skills of a seasoned comic.
New Hampshire was a more intimate venue that allowed Cruz to dominate the format.
Cruz said America is in a crisis, but that the country will “reignite” in 2o months to change the course of the country, when and if he is elected. But until then, he said, it will be like Lord of the Flies.
Most odds-makers don’t consider Cruz a viable general election candidate, but that doesn’t mean he won’t win the nomination. In his first week after declaring his candidacy, he raised more than $31 million from four difference political action committees.
“There’s nearly 90,000 employees of the IRS,” he said he after telling the audience he would abolish the agency if he’s president. “We need to padlock that building, take everyone of them, and put them on our Southern border!
“Now to our friends in the media, I say that somewhat tongue in cheek,” he said. “But think about it for a second: Imagine you had traveled thousands of miles through the blazing sun. You swim across the Rio Grande. The first thing you see is 90,000 IRS agents. You’d turn around and come home, too!”
The rest of his speech was similar in tone.
In addition to repealing Obamacare (a cause he championed that he led to a government shutdown in 2013), Cruz told the Nashua Republicans, “We need to repeal every word of Common Core!”, almost de rigeur for the candidates to say over the weekend. (Jeb Bush was the noticeable exception.)
Like he did at Liberty University, Cruz frequently told the audience to “imagine” how things might be with a different, ideally more conservative, president in place.
He called the framework of a nuclear deal that President Obama has negotiated with the Iranian government “a historic mistake,” and said he was proud to be among the 47 Republican senators to sign the controversial letter to Iran about those nuclear talks. Saturday, he said he’d do it again in a heartbeat.
“My only regret is like John Hancock that I didn’t make my signature bigger,” he said with bravado, bringing more cheers. “So the Ayatollah can read it, without his reading glasses!”
During the Q&A portion of his half-hour appearance, Cruz was asked about how he would vote on Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s choice to succeed Eric Holder as U.S. attorney general.
“My vote on Loretta Lynch is going to be unambiguously no. Unequivocal,” he said to more cheers. He said it stemmed from his questions as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee during her confirmation hearings.
He said he initially wanted to support Lynch, calling Holder “the most partisan, abusive attorney general in the history of our country.” His support for her vanished, though, when he asked whether she would support not only Obama’s executive actions regarding immigration, but also the fate of all 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country, he said. “She refused to answer that question.”
He said he then asked her whether there were any limits to “executive amnesty,” but she “refused to answer this question. She refused to acknowledge any limits on the president’s authority.”
“In my view, when you have an attorney general nominee who looks at the United States Senate and says he or she will not enforce any constitutional limits whatsoever on the power of the president, there is no way in good conscience … to vote to confirm such a nominee.”