As His Moderate Rivals Are 'Ripping Each Other Apart,' Ted Cruz Sees An In "The moderates are acting like conservatives usually do," Cruz told NPR. The Texas senator is positioning himself to capture supporters from Donald Trump or Ben Carson, should they falter.
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As His Moderate Rivals Are 'Ripping Each Other Apart,' Ted Cruz Sees An In

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As His Moderate Rivals Are 'Ripping Each Other Apart,' Ted Cruz Sees An In

As His Moderate Rivals Are 'Ripping Each Other Apart,' Ted Cruz Sees An In

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Texas senator Ted Cruz is gaining ground in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, and he's positioning himself to capture supporters from Donald Trump or Ben Carson should they falter. NPR's Wade Goodwyn caught up with the candidate in Iowa.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: U.S. senator Ted Cruz cut his political teeth inside the right wing of the Texas Republican Party. His success is rooted in the idea that there's no such thing as too conservative.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Folks, please make welcome Senator Ted Cruz.

(APPLAUSE)

GOODWYN: At the National Religious Liberties Conference in Des Moines, Iowa, last week, Cruz answered a moderator's questions before a thousand people.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: How important is it for the president of the United States to fear God?

TED CRUZ: Any president who doesn't begin every day on his knees isn't fit to be commander in chief of this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Amen.

(APPLAUSE)

GOODWYN: When he runs for office, nobody gets to the right of Ted Cruz.

CRUZ: In most prior elections, there has been a consensus moderate candidate early on, and all the money gets behind that candidate. And on the conservative side, there tend to be a ton of conservatives. Nobody has any money, and we fight like cats and dogs. What's remarkable about this cycle is the entire situation is inverted.

GOODWYN: Instead of having to defend himself, Cruz is busy laying out his agenda. On the economic front, a president Cruz would abolish the IRS, institute a 10 percent flat tax across the board and, for the first time in generations, return the U.S. to the gold standard.

CRUZ: If you look at most of the history of America, we've had a gold standard, including through some of the greatest economic booms known to mankind. And so I believe what undermines economic growth is unpredictability with regard to currency. It has a profoundly negative effect if people don't know the value of the dollar.

GOODWYN: If elected, Cruz would order the FBI and the Department of Justice to investigate Planned Parenthood. He opposed any minimum wage increase, and he would deport the millions of undocumented immigrants in this country - all of them.

CRUZ: If you start from the proposition that rule of law matters, it answers a whole lot of questions. You know, my view on immigration a simple - legal - good, illegal - bad.

GOODWYN: In foreign policy, Senator Cruz is a hawk with limitations. He's less a boots-on-the-ground man than a bomb-them-from-the-skies guy. He says he'll do whatever is necessary to keep Israel safe.

CRUZ: When the next president enters the White House, the odds are significant that he or she will encounter an Iran on the verge of having nuclear weapons. And it may be that the only option at that point to preventing Iran from having nuclear weapons is military force. That should always be the last option.

GOODWYN: So what are the chances that Ted Cruz is the next Republican nominee for president? Because he's preferred the role of rogue agitator in defiance of his own party's leadership, in the past, he'd of had no chance. But as if to demonstrate that we're not in Kansas anymore, Cruz's first radio spot emphasizes that the Texas senator is hated by the GOP establishment.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The media and even some of his own party, like Speaker John Boehner, attack Ted Cruz, referring to him as a pain in the you-know-what because of his bold actions fighting to keep the promises he made to me. That was the Ted Cruz I trust.

GOODWYN: Cruz rejects the received political wisdom that there simply aren't enough conservative Republicans to elect someone like himself.

CRUZ: There are a handful of consultants in Washington who relentlessly push what I call the Washington fallacy, which is that the way Republicans win a general election is to run to the middle, to run as Democrat light. Every time we do that, we lose.

GOODWYN: Cruz has assembled both an impressive campaign war chest and a solid network of state organizations across the South and Midwest. He's capturing both billionaire and Republican grassroots financial support. His strategy is to persevere while other candidates fall, eventually emerging as the default favorite of the Republican right.

CRUZ: There are about 90 million evangelicals in America. In 2012, 54 million evangelicals stayed home. I think I'm the best position to energize and mobilize and inspire the millions of conservatives who've been staying home.

GOODWYN: And what of the other son of a Cuban immigrant, the Floridian who is also well-positioned and a growing favorite with Republican voters? Cruz says he would be delighted if it came down to him and Marco Rubio, two quintessential American success stories writ large.

CRUZ: Marco is a friend. He's a fellow son of Cuban immigrants. And I will say this. If the race becomes head-to-head, a battle between a clear conservative and a clear moderate, we win.

GOODWYN: Many political pundits and odds-makers in Vegas think a Cruz-Rubio matchup aint so far-fetched. These young charismatic Republicans are on deck, the next generation of Republican political talent. The next three months will answer the question if their time is now. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas.

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