All told, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz campaigned for the presidency for more than 13 months.
As a campaign embed, I was along for the ride (literally) for nine months, to 27 states and hundreds of campaign stops, capturing his every move on camera and firing off questions as he made headlines along the way. During Cruz’s time on the campaign trail, he never needed Secret Service, which meant his press corps and his supporters got extraordinary access.
Here are six of my most memorable moments on the trail with candidate Cruz.
1. From the First Bus Tour to the Last
Cruz and his staff prided themselves on campaigning harder than several of Cruz’s rivals. In Iowa, for example, he squeezed 28 stops into six days and visited all 99 of Iowa’s counties. The senator would make campaign stops after 10 p.m. at a gas station in Iowa or a diner in New Hampshire, and he seemed to revel in retail politics: shaking hands, praying with supporters, getting on his knees to fist-bump children and talking about his own daughters to voters.
— Jessica Hopper (@jesshop23) April 29, 2016
Cruz’s body man, Bruce Redden, would often whisper in the senator’s ear that he needed to speed up or that they were running late and needed to go. As the crowds grew, the senator would often take a large selfie with remaining supporters. His staff often said the senator’s desire to stay and shake every hand was a “good problem to have.”
In addition to campaign posters and T-shirts, the senator signed everything from books to baseballs to school reports to someone’s copy of the Communist manifesto.
— Ben Gittleson (@bgittleson) April 28, 2016
Cruz never had to obtain Secret Service protection during the time he was campaigning, allowing both his supporters and the press to remain close behind him everywhere he went.
2. “Gone Huntin’”
On Halloween 2015, an orange-clad press corps trailed Cruz as he hunted pheasants with U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) Steve King. He was also hunting for King’s endorsement. Cruz ended up nabbing two birds and eventually King’s endorsement, which helped propel him to victory in the Iowa Caucuses.
— Jessica Hopper (@jesshop23) October 31, 2015
3. Family Life On The Trail
Cruz’s campaign was a family affair. His mother, Eleanor, made get-out-the-vote calls to his supporters in Houston. His father, a pastor, traveled the country appealing to evangelical voters. Cruz’s wife, Heidi, helped spearhead his fundraising efforts and later became one of his best surrogates. The couple’s young daughters, Caroline and Catherine, who were 7- and 4-years-old when the campaign started, would often travel with their parents and help escort their dad out on stage.
— Jessica Hopper (@jesshop23) August 10, 2015
4. The Impressions
One of the most common things I heard from potential voters as they left his events was that they weren’t expecting to laugh as much as they did. Of course, they expected Cruz to offer them policy positions in line with their beliefs, but not to quote “The Princess Bride,” “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly” or “Jerry Maguire.”
Cruz also loved to do an impression of a Texas farmer who was fed up with overregulation. Toward the end of his campaign, the impressions were less frequent but not entirely gone.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) November 29, 2015
5. “Senator, Would You Arm the Cheese Curds?”
At a retail stop at an Italian market in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Cruz was in an exceptionally good mood. On the verge of a win in Wisconsin, he and his wife kissed as they sampled gelato and sorbet. Cruz, who has described cheese on cheese as his favorite food, tried some cheese too.
When he left the store for his campaign bus, I tossed him a fun question, asking whether he would arm the “cheese curds,” playing on a standard line in his stump speech. Even though he tried to leave without answering any last minute questions from the press, the senator couldn’t resist. He turned and laughed.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) April 5, 2016
6. Unleashing on Trump
But eventually Cruz unloaded on the real estate mogul. Trump’s criticism of Cruz’s wife and later, his father seemed to impact Cruz on an emotional level that made it impossible for him to avoid addressing the insults.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) March 24, 2016
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) May 3, 2016
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