DES MOINES — Sen. Ted Cruz’s introduction at the Republican Party of Iowa’s Reagan Dinner came with a warning.
“The last time someone handed him a microphone he talked for 21 hours,” state GOP Co-Chairman David Fischer said, referring to the Texas Republican’s Senate floor speech leading up to the 16-day partial government shutdown.
Cruz, accompanied by his wife Heidi, joked along, saying he would “do everything possible to speak less than 21 hours.”
“Twenty-one hours,” he told a crowd estimated at more than 600, “is a long time — almost as long as it takes to sign up on the Obamacare website.”
Cruz, who although only in his first year in the Senate is seen as a contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, talked for only 45 minutes and none of that time was used to apologize for his role in the government shutdown. He also rejected media reports that it accomplished nothing.
“We accomplished a great deal,” the 42-year-old Princeton- and Harvard-educated attorney said. “We elevated the national debate over what a disaster Obamacare, what a train wreck, how much Obamacare is hurting millions of Americans.”
Despite its title — the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — it offers no protection and is not affordable, Cruz said.
The shutdown, he argued, has energized the American public. In an election year, Cruz said looking ahead to 2014, “nothing matters more than an energized grass roots.”
“We didn’t accomplish our ultimate goal,” he conceded, but that was not because of lack of effort or the wrong goal, but because too many Senate Republicans refused to stand with their House colleagues, he said.
In the wake of the shutdown, Cruz is trying to energize and mobilize the grass roots through a website, www.makeDClisten.org, and speaking engagements to carry the message to the grass roots like Reagan did in 1980.
He also called for unity, for conservatives “to come together on growth and freedom,” Cruz added. Those are ideals that will “unify evangelicals with the liberty community, the business community. Growth and freedom are principles that bring together Main Street with the Tea Party.”
Today, Cruz will join 4th District Rep. Steve King for a northwest Iowa pheasant hunt. Earlier in the day, King praised Cruz, but said it’s too early to know whether the Texan has the staying power to be a 2016 contender.
“There’s no question he’s a very smart guy, so we will see,” King said. “He’s also aware that this is an extraordinary ride he is on. I think he’s just being the genuine Ted Cruz and we’ll see how far it will take him.”