The real estate mogul has a hefty lead in the first-in-the-nation primary state, but Cruz has the momentum.
“What we saw last night was we saw that old Reagan coalition coming back together,” he said to a packed crowd at the Crossing Life Church here just hours after riding massive turnout to a convincing win in Monday’s Iowa caucuses. “We saw conservatives and evangelicals and Reagan Democrats standing together and saying, ‘What on Earth are we doing?’”
The firebrand Texas senator, reviled by colleagues on Capitol Hill but beloved by a restive conservative base furious with Washington, has never been a natural fit in this moderate-tinged New England state. But he’s hoping to take a Texas-sized bite out of Donald Trump’s seemingly insurmountable lead in New Hampshire, even as the New York mogul has pledged to reclaim the frontrunner’s mantle here next week.
“The Granite State shocked this country,” he said, hearkening to Reagan’s primary win here in 1980, crediting the state’s voters with helping end the Cold War and tear down the Berlin Wall.
Cruz, who feigned limited interest in the state for much of his campaign, has a lot of ground to make up before next Tuesday’s voting – going into the week, Trump was leading Cruz by roughly 20 points in an average of recent polls.
The rivalry was on display on Tuesday, when Cruz responded to an attendee’s question about Trump’s mocking of a New York Times reporter with a disability.
“One of the greatest tests of character is how do you treat people you don’t have to be nice to … how do you treat the clerk at the convenience store. How do you treat the cab driver, people who you don’t have to be nice to, there’s no meaningful consequence in your life,” he said. “I can tell you, 6 weeks ago, Donald Trump was saying every day that I was his friend, that he loved me, that I was terrific that I was nice. And now I’m an anchor baby.
He went on to say nothing has changed about him, but circumstances have changed for Trump. “I don’t really think six months ago, something profoundly changed about me,” he said. “What did change is his numbers started going down and our numbers started surging.”
But the brash billionaire took to Twitter on Tuesday morning, after a 15-plus-hour break from his go-to megaphone, to try to spin his bruising loss as not all that bad.“My experience in Iowa was a great one. I started out with all of the experts saying I couldn’t do well there and ended up in 2nd place. Nice,” he tweeted.
He continued, “Because I was told I could not do well in Iowa, I spent very little there – a fraction of Cruz & Rubio. Came in a strong second. Great honor.”
And in typical Trump fashion, he lashed out at the media: “The media has not covered my long-shot great finish in Iowa fairly. Brought in record voters and got second highest vote total in history!”
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