BARRINGTON, New Hampshire — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz was delivering his normal rhetoric during a New Hampshire speech on Sunday, hitting the current administration on the economy, Obamacare and national security.
“And the Obama-Clinton foreign policy of leading from behind — the whole world is on fire,” the senator from Texas declared.
But he was stopped by a 3-year-old girl sitting in the front row.
“The world is on fire?” she yelled out.
Cruz took it and ran with it.
“The world is on fire — yes! Your world is on fire,” he exclaimed, seizing the moment as the crowd burst out into laughter. “But you know what? Your mommy’s here and everyone’s here to make sure that the world you grow up in is even better.”
The scene — while cute — captured Cruz’s determination to remain unwavering in his views and language, never backtracking. There was no “just kidding” or “that was only a metaphor” to assuage the little girl.
Instead, the first-term senator continued with his speechifying and used the moment to illustrate his point that while things are bad now, they could get better — especially, cough cough, if he becomes president.
Breaking from the mold
Cruz is bringing the resolute disruptor brand that he’s built in Congress out on the trail as he lays the groundwork for a White House bid. This weekend, he was on a two-day swing through New Hampshire, stopping Sunday afternoon at an event put on by the Strafford County GOP.
In the same way Cruz challenges establishment Republicans in the Senate, he’s trying to build a campaign that breaks from the mold and showcases his firebrand conservatism. For example, his first question from the audience came from a woman who wanted to know how Cruz was going to make campaign finance reform a reality, a huge issue in the first-in-the-nation primary state.
But Cruz argued that not only is money a form of speech, it emboldens speech. “The answer is not to muzzle citizens; it’s to empower citizens across the country,” he said.
Throwing a bone to his questioner, however, he said he supports requiring that campaign donations be disclosed.
He took the same steadfast approach last weekend in Iowa, when he and other contenders were asked about the ethanol mandate requiring that gasoline contain a certain amount of ethanol — a popular regulation in Iowa where corn is king.
While nearly every other potential candidate expressed at least some measure of support for the mandate, Cruz flatly opposed it, saying in front of close to a thousand Iowa farmers that he doesn’t think the government should be involved in the private sector.
Gov. Scott Walker, who’s vying with Jeb Bush for frontrunner status, said he supported the mandate in Iowa, despite previously opposing it in his home state of Wisconsin
Asked by reporters Sunday about accusations that Walker is a flip-flopper, Cruz first praised his potential rival but made sure to mention that candidates need to be challenged on their actions.
“It’s easy for candidates to give an answer,” he said, but added: “The proof is in the pudding. What I’ve urged Republicans to ask of every candidate is: Have you walked the walk? Show me your record.”
Cruz got heavy applause when he said he wanted to “repeal every word of Common Core,” a set of testing standards that Jeb Bush staunchly defended when he appeared at a nearby event in Dover, New Hampshire just two days earlier.
Common Core, however, was not legislation approved by Congress. Rather, it was created by a bipartisan group of governors and state leaders, and states received financial incentives by the government to adopt the standards.
Officially running? ‘Stay tuned’
Still, Cruz played somewhat coy with his White House aspirations, aware of the tight federal regulations that would start holding contenders to different standards once they admit they’re running for president.
When voters pressed him Sunday to make a White House bid, Cruz told them to “stay tuned.”
“I’m looking at it very, very seriously,” he told the audience. “I would point out a week ago I was in Iowa, yesterday I was in South Carolina, and today I’m in New Hampshire.”
But he truly charmed the crowd when he said that after he and his wife got their daughters a puppy recently, one of the girls gave her approval for Cruz’s presidential aspirations.
“If you win, that means Snowflake will finally get a backyard to pee in,” his daughter said, according to Cruz.
In terms of energy and turnout, Sunday’s event stood out from other events held by potential White House contenders who were in New Hampshire this weekend, in part because it was open to the public, unlike other events headlined by Walker and Bush.
READ: Ted Cruz calls on next president to ‘repudiate’ Iran deal Organizers were overwhelmed by the number of people who showed up to the Barrington office of Turbocam, a manufacturing company that’s open about its Christian values, to hear Cruz speak. Twenty minutes before it was scheduled to start, organizers had to move the chairs, reporters and speakers to a bigger room to accommodate the 130 to 140 people who showed up.
His remarks were met with boisterous applause, and he was frequently urged to run for president by people who shook his hand before and after the event.
‘It’s D-Day in America folks’
Halfway through Cruz’s remarks, a small-business owner in the audience was called on to ask a question but instead stood up proudly next to the senator and went off into a two-minute rant about how other Republicans in Washington aren’t representing their conservative constituents.
“It is D-Day in America folks,” he said, getting the crowd on their feet. “We can’t wait for another Republican. We need Ted Cruz.”
The man said his wife wrote a blank check for Cruz and pulled out his wallet, only to throw it on the ground at Cruz’s feet.
“For those who believe in miracles, this gentleman just threw his wallet at a politician,” Cruz said, getting a big laugh from the crowd. “And he actually got it back.”
Cruz could not accept the money because he’s not yet a candidate.
One man, Bill Higgins, stood outside in the snow for four hours hoping Cruz would meet his goat named Izak, an apparent fixture on the campaign trail which was wearing a hat that said “I voted” and who happened to bite Jon Huntsman in 2011.
Cruz waved hello at Higgins as the senator exited the building Sunday afternoon but didn’t stop to greet the goat.
“He’ll be back again,” Higgins said, trying to appear unfazed. “I’m sure he wants to get to his next stop.”