Ted Cruz Brings Anti-Washington Shtick to Dallas

by Eliana Johnson

Ted Cruz brought his anti-Washington crusade to Americans for Prosperity’s Defending the Dream summit in Dallas on Saturday. 

“I spent last week in Washington, D.C,” he said. “It’s great to be back in America.” Barry Goldwater, the late Arizona senator who upended the Republican establishment, and to whom Cruz has often been compared, couldn’t have said it better.

The Texas senator threw the sharpest elbows, however, at President Obama. Six months ago, Obamacare was the dominant issue shaping key Senate races, but in a sign of how the political ground has shifted, Cruz predicted they would be a “national referendum on amnesty.” Though many have speculated about the brewing rivalry between Cruz and his fellow Texan, Governor Rick Perry, with both eyeing a presidential bid in 2016, Cruz offered praise for Perry’s decision to deploy National Guard troops to the secure the border.

And he invited the president to the Texas border — to play golf. Addressing reporters after his speech, he dwelled further on the theme. “It almost seems like the PGA oughta put him on retainer,” he said. “I don’t know about you, but I’ve never known anyone who plays that much golf. It’s almost like he doesn’t have a job, like he’s retired or something.”

The Cruz who showed up in Dallas played to the right flank of the Republican party that rocketed him to national fame, continuing to defend his push last year to shut down the federal government. “As a result of that fight,” he said, the president’s “popularity has plummeted,” and he told reporters he still believes Obamacare will be repealed. That’s a reversal for Cruz, who argued the government shutdown was necessary because once an entitlement program took root, people would become addicted to it. Now, he is singing a different tune. “Any student of military history knows wars are not typically won in the first skirmish,” he said Saturday.

Asked about the Republican governors who have agreed to the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, including some of his potential 2016 rivals like Indiana governor Mike Pence, he said he would “urge any governor not to be complicit in the disaster.”

Cruz also made clear he’ll position himself on the hawkish end of the party’s foreign-policy spectrum which, in a potential 2016 matchup, will put him at odds with his fellow tea-party superstar Rand Paul. He told the crowd on Saturday that the U.S. should bomb the Islamic State “back to the Stone Age” and mused that the “Obama diet” is simply letting Russian president Vladimir Putin “eat your lunch every day.”