Live from Council Bluffs, it’s Ted Cruz

Nebraska attorney David Begley continues his series of reports on appearances of the presidential candidates in Iowa for us. Yesterday Dave attended the appearance of Texas Senator Ted Cruz in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The Omaha World-Herald’s report on Cruz’s appearance is posted here; Dave’s is below:

I saw Ted Cruz for the second time this campaign season. The first time was before a very large crowd in Des Moines and the theme was religious liberty. Friday night was a smaller crowd (but a full room) in Council Bluffs. He gave what I assume was his standard stump speech.

He presents himself as the political heir of Ronald Reagan but he didn’t say so directly. I thought of that when he started his speech with two corny jokes. I recently read that Ronald Reagan did the same thing. One joke referred to the Pope’s recent visit to DC. When the media asked questions at a press conference and addressed “his Holiness,” said Cruz, President Obama answered.

The Council Bluffs event was much more informal than the Des Moines event. Senator Cruz cracked jokes and one was his repeated use of the phrase”” I have read that one of the knocks on Senator Cruz is that to some he seems too artificial or practiced. While he is an exceptionally fluid speaker, he connected with the crowd. Out in the street I overheard two young men remark that seeing Cruz in person made him seem real and not “a regular politician.” It is worth noting that Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard has said that Cruz was his smartest student ever and the Senator has argued numerous cases before the Supreme Court.

The format of his stump speech follows the agenda of his first day in office. In order: (1) Rescind Obama’s Executive Orders; (2) Instruct DOJ to follow the law and investigate Planned Parenthood; (3) Stop persecution of religious liberty; (4) Rip to shreds the Iran deal; (5) Move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; (6) Repeal Obamacare; (7) Common Core is ended; (8) Rebuild the military and allow troops to carry weapons so that there are no more shootings like at the recruiting center in Chattanooga; (9) Secure the borders, no sanctuary cities and pass Kate’s law; (10) Take on the administrative state starting with the EPA and CFPB; and (11) Enact a flat tax and abolish the IRS.

After every bullet point he received applause. Abolishing the IRS drew the biggest ovation. He then stated he would put the 90,000 former IRS employees on the Mexican border. For the benefit of the media in the room he explained that this wasn’t a literal promise but that 90,000 IRS agents on the Rio Grande would cause illegal border crossers to head back home in fear.

At one point during his speech someone’s phone rang. Without skipping a beat Ted said it was President Obama. “Tell him we are peaceably overthrowing the government.”

Cruz then hit the Reagan analogy hard. Today is like the late ’70’s. Russia and Iran were laughing at us then. Iran had our hostages. Our economy was stagnant. But a man rose up from the grassroots who was despised by the DC elites and that man was Ronald Reagan. Today The New York Times and all the DC insiders hate Ted Cruz just like they hated Reagan. Reagan did bold things and so will Cruz: “We know how that story ends.”

Cruz’s fundraising reflects his success reaching a segment of the conservative base. He has raised $26.5 million from 360,000 donors. The Senator has a lot of fans outside Manhattan and DC.

He finished with the story of his parents. His father fought against Fidel Castro and came to America with $100 and unable to speak English. His mother is from an Irish Catholic family. She defied her father to attend Rice University where she became an early computer scientist. Many of us have somewhat similar family backgrounds. America’s freedom needs to be preserved at this critical time as we are the shining city on a hill and the last best hope for the world. Who said that before? Reagan also expressed the theme that the loss of our freedom is never more than one generation away.

He took five questions. The first was on immigration. He said he would close the border and that current federal law is quite expansive. Obama ignores current federal law. President Cruz will not and will make it a priority.

The second question was from a young man asking if Cruz could bring to young people “change that you can believe in.” Hmmm. He noted that the Obama economy has hit young people especially hard. Obamacare is a wealth transfer from the young to the old. The young are saddled with the $18 trillion debt. Economic growth in a Cruz administration is the answer.

My question was the third. It was the same question I asked Ben Carson. Ten miles from our meeting place there is a large coal fired power plant that supplies relatively cheap power to southwest Iowa and one of its main customers is a large Google server farm. The Clean Power Plan regulations could close that plant or raise prices considerably. I asked what his energy policy was and if he would urge Iowa to declare itself a sanctuary from this regulation.

He responded: “I like the way you think.” He then recited the line from the movie Jerry McGuire and said, “You had me at hello.” Good laughs all around.

Senator Cruz noted that this regulation is lawless. He would rescind it. He urged Iowa to fight the Obama administration “on every front.” He then remarked that Obama has kept his promise to conduct a war on oil, gas and coal and that this was about the only campaign promise he has kept.

I would add that the coal industry is in deep trouble. Omaha-based Union Pacific Railroad saw a decline in total revenue due to declining coal shipments in the third quarter and is contemplating layoffs. I can’t recall layoffs ever occurring previously at the UPRR.

The fourth question was about the high cost of college tuition. He invoked the need for more competition. He said that he borrowed $100,000 for his education. He didn’t say he attended Princeton and Harvard.

The last question was on gun rights. Here he gave a sophisticated answer that really emphasized one of his strengths. All GOP candidates have an issues section on their web sites and will say they support the Second Amendment. Ted Cruz, on the other hand, cites his Supreme Court victory on the issue along with recent legislative victories.

Cruz makes an impression as the most conservative candidate in the field. He proclaims his alleged outsider status and flaunts the hostility of the DC elites toward him. The event shows that his campaign is not limited to the Christian community. After attending the religious liberty event in Des Moines and seeing that he is building a following among pastors, I wonder if his Iowa support is underestimated. Ben Carson is currently leading in Iowa and he is also tapping into the same network, but even voters who express a preference at this stage of the race may not be strongly attached to the candidate.