HOUSTON — Ted Cruz delivered on Sunday what looked like a dry run of his 2016 presidential stump speech to the South Carolina activists who will help decide that election.
In his first visit since October to the state, which will host the third presidential primary in February 2016, Cruz told the state’s Tea Party activists that nominating a moderate in 2016 would lead Republicans to lose just like they have when those moderates led tickets in the past.
This time, Cruz added a new name to the cadre of moderate losers: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has expressed interest over the past week about running for president for a third time.
“If we nominate another candidate in the mold of a Bob Dole or a John McCain or a Mitt Romney, all of whom are good, honorable, decent men,” Cruz said, “the same people who stayed home in ’08 and ’12 will stay home in 2016 and the Democrats will win again.”
Cruz’s speech to the 1,500 activists at the South Carolina Tea Party Convention gave him an opportunity to mingle with those who volunteer and raise small-dollar donations for presidential campaigns. Two other potential presidential candidates, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and neurosurgeon Ben Carson, also have that chance this weekend at the event in Myrtle Beach.
The state’s junior senator implored those activists to judge presidential candidates toughly, asking them to look beyond their conservative rhetoric and evaluate their conservative records.
“South Carolina is vital to ensuring Republicans nominate real conservatives to lead this country,” Cruz said. “And what I would encourage you — for every candidate who shows up in front of you — is ask the question: Show me your the stripes on your back. Show me the walk. Don’t talk.”
Cruz hit many of his usual points in his 20 minutes of remarks, asking Republicans to demand uncompromising conservative leadership that would repeal Obamacare, abolish the IRS and block Barack Obama’s “executive amnesty.” But he also hit on some lesser-touched themes, discussing at length his successful attempt to create enough public pressure to cause Mayor Annise Parker to retract subpoenas requesting the sermons of some area pastors.