Ted Cruz Pitches Himself As The Politician With Outsider Cred : It's All Politics In a presidential campaign where political outsiders are leading, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz tells GOP voters that he is taking on the establishment from within. This week, he made that pitch in Iowa.
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Ted Cruz Pitches Himself As The Politician With Outsider Cred

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Ted Cruz Pitches Himself As The Politician With Outsider Cred

Ted Cruz Pitches Himself As The Politician With Outsider Cred

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

In a presidential campaign where political outsiders are eclipsing experienced politicians, Republican Ted Cruz is painting himself as an anti-Washington crusader who is taking on the establishment from within. The Texas senator campaigned in Iowa this week, where he's trying to pick off support from both outsiders and insiders. NPR's Sarah McCammon joined Cruz on the road, and here is her report.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: At a restaurant in the Mississippi River town of Keokuk, Ted Cruz addressed a full room over a loudspeaker.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

TED CRUZ: I spent most of last week in Washington, D.C., so it is great to be back in America.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAMMON: Cruz says if you think things in Washington are going great...

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

T. CRUZ: Then I ain't your guy.

MCCAMMON: Cruz is a relative newcomer to Washington. Since he was elected to the Senate in 2012, he's developed a reputation for being disliked, not just by Democrats, but by many in his own party.

SANDRA JOHNSON: He's in the Senate but not of the Senate.

MCCAMMON: Sandra Johnson, who lives in Keokuk, says that's a reason to like Cruz.

JOHNSON: I'm looking for a non-establishment candidate, definitely.

MCCAMMON: Why a non-establishment?

JOHNSON: Why not - why would I be? Because I think they're not in tune with the rest of the country. They're only interested in their own careers a lot of times.

MCCAMMON: Maybe no surprise - Johnson is also drawn to the three candidates who've never held office - Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric has won him the adoration of many Tea Party conservatives, a group Cruz has also identified with. In one of his most popular lines, Cruz jokes that he would defend the U.S.-Mexico border by shuttering the IRS and sending the tax collectors south.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

T. CRUZ: Imagine you traveled thousands of miles in the blazing sun, you're swimming across the Rio Grande, and the first thing you see is 90,000 IRS agents.

(LAUGHTER)

T. CRUZ: You'd turn around and go home, too.

MCCAMMON: He takes a different tone when he talks about his father's immigration from Cuba. Cruz also tells a story about his mother, who went to college, over her father's objections, and became a computer programmer. It was the 1950s, Cruz says, and she deliberately didn't learn to type.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

T. CRUZ: She said, I didn't want to be walking down the hall and have a man stop me and say, sweetheart, would you type this for me?

MCCAMMON: That feels like a pitch to women who might be drawn to Carly Fiorina's story of rising from secretary to CEO in the male-dominated corporate world. Cruz also highlights his wife, Heidi...

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

T. CRUZ: She's a California blonde.

MCCAMMON: ...Introducing her as beautiful and brilliant.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

T. CRUZ: She's an amazing businesswoman.

MCCAMMON: A Harvard Business School grad, Heidi Cruz says she wrestled with whether to take time away from her career at the investment firm Goldman Sachs to join the campaign.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

HEIDI CRUZ: Just like every one of you, I had a choice. You laugh, you laugh - of course, the wife has to support. No, no - of course, the wife does not have to support.

MCCAMMON: She's been appearing alongside her husband and appealing to a traditional GOP voting block - evangelicals.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

H. CRUZ: This is where God has placed all of us - not Ted and I, but all of us in this room, to take our country back.

MCCAMMON: Cruz's Iowa campaign director, Bryan English, says the path to victory is a slow, steady build, polling support from across the GOP field.

BRYAN ENGLISH: We're not just going after the guys that are ahead of us in the polls. We're looking to poll the support from the folks that are below us in the polls as well. We want everyone to come to caucus for us.

MCCAMMON: In other words, bringing together the desire for an outsider with the energy and political organization of Iowa's evangelical base. Sarah McCammon, NPR News.

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