Last night, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was the only featured guest at a New York Republican Party dinner, which a spokesman said raised nearly $750,000.
During his 35-minute speech that roused a crowd of high-profile New York Republicans, it couldn’t have been clearer where the GOP’s rising star from Texas wanted to move — away from the divisive rhetoric of a failed 2012 for Republicans and onto a path that could set them up for success in 2014 and 2016.
His speech served as a direct rebuke to the campaign of 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney. It will only further chatter about his future ambitions, including a potential 2016 run for president.
“I am going to suggest that the last election can be explained in two words: 47 per cent,” Cruz said, referencing Romney’s infamous speech to donors at a fundraiser last year. At this fundraiser, Cruz took a profound shot at Romney’s narrative.
“I think Mitt Romney’s a good and decent man, and he ran a very hard campaign. But what I mean is the narrative of the last election. The narrative of the last election was, ‘The 47 per cent of Americans who are not paying income taxes, who in some way are dependent upon government. We don’t have to worry about them.’ That’s what was communicated in the last election.
“I have to tell you, as a conservative, I cannot think of an idea more opposite to what we believe. I think Republicans are and should be the party of the 47 per cent.”
APIt was a message, a Cruz aide later said, that needs to be communicated to the party a lot more — a party that embraced and, in some ways, fuelled the fire to Romney’s remarks.
Cruz also pushed back against another Romney and party narrative: The line “you didn’t build that,” a reference to an off-cuff remark from President Barack Obama during a campaign speech.
Cruz said he thought Romney’s twist on the line, “You did build that,” was the campaign’s “best” slogan.
“And yet, as good as it was, it could have been a lot better,” Cruz said. “Because it was addressed to people who had already built their businesses. How much better would it have been if Romney campaigned and said, ‘You can build that?'”
It remains to be seen, however, whether the policy prescriptions Cruz advocates will win him the crowds that the Republican Party covets.
Last month, he was one of the most vehement opponents of a failed amendment in the Senate that would have expanded background checks on gun purchases — something that a vast majority of Americans continue to support. While chatting with reporters later, Cruz said that he will continue to oppose the amendment if it comes up again, citing fears that expanded background checks would lead to a national gun registry. It’s not an argument that most Americans buy.
Cruz also opposes the Senate “gang of eight” immigration bill as it currently stands. And he is mired in a Senate procedural debate over concerns about raising teh debt ceiling — objection to which has been a political loser for Republicans for the past two years.
But it’s clear that he has already become a major voice in the party — along Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, all of whom Cruz praised in his speech.
As Cruz was talking with reporters, one New York GOP official came up to another with a shocked look on his face. He had just received two donations as party members walked out the door — one for $10,000, and another for $25,000.
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