If news of tea-party darling Michele Bachmann’s retirement on Wednesday had the movement’s supporters down, the splash created by Ted Cruz’s arrival in liberal New York City may buoy their spirits.
The Texas senator, in town to deliver the keynote speech at the New York State Republican party’s annual dinner, told a crowd of several hundred that his focus as a lawmaker is on restoring the country’s economic growth, which he considers the prerequisite for everything else the government must accomplish. Donning his signature black cowboy boots and pacing across the stage, Cruz made the case for reining in spending and reforming the tax code. “Do you know there are 10,000 more words in the tax code than there are in the Bible?” he asked. “And Pastor,” he continued, addressing one of the dinner guests seated before him, “not one of them is as good.”
Cruz went on to address the IRS scandal roiling the nation’s tax-collection agency and the Obama administration. “I’ll give you the simplest solution,” he told the crowd. His proposal — “abolish the IRS” — was greeted with raucous applause.
Dozens of protesters greeted Cruz upon his arrival at New York City’s Grand Hyatt Hotel. Standing across the street from Grand Central Station, they blasted the senator’s stance on issues from gun control to immigration. The protest began on Facebook, where a group calling itself New York For Gun Sense urged citizens to confront the senator about his opposition to expanding background checks on gun sales, and then moved to Twitter where Cruz critics sent messages bearing the hashtag #YouCruzYouLose.
His critics, however, were quickly outnumbered by his vocal and passionate defenders. RedState’s Erick Erickson urged supporters to tweet their support for Cruz using the hashtag #CruzToVictory, which quickly became one of the country’s top trends on Twitter, and remained so through most of the evening.
The senator, whose friends and close advisers told National Review Online earlier this month that he is considering a presidential bid, is perhaps the most high-profile freshman lawmaker in Washington. He delivered the keynote speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this year, where he received Sarah Palin’s blessing, and in early May he spoke at the South Carolina GOP’s annual Silver Elephant dinner. He has been the subject of attention and controversy since his election last November, particularly for his refusal to defer to his elders in the upper chamber. But Cruz’s irreverence and outspokenness have also helped him garner a large and enthusiastic following among the GOP’s conservative wing, many members of which have supported him since his Senate primary, when he mounted a surprise victory over the party-backed candidate, Texas lieutenant governor David Dewhurst.
“It’s very easy as Republicans to be demoralized right now,” Cruz concluded, harking back to 2005 when the GOP controlled the presidency, the House, and the Senate and noting that the party lost all three to the Democrats within three years. “Change happens fast, and as we’ve seen the last few weeks,” he said, nodding to the scandals that have cause the Obama administration so much grief, ”a month can be an eternity in politics.”