Exeter, N.H. — I’ve spent the past couple of days on the campaign trail in New Hampshire with Ted Cruz. A few things are immediately clear:
‐Cruz is an incredibly disciplined campaigner: There’s general agreement among the reporters covering him, including the network embeds who have been with him for months, that he’s a boring candidate from the media’s perspective because he so rarely veers off message. Another reporter offhandedly compared him to Jeb Bush, whom he said he’d enjoyed spending time with far more because Bush was like a little kid who got himself into trouble any time he wasn’t being minded by an adult. Cruz only throws bits of news to the press intentionally, on his own schedule. The timing of his fight with Donald Trump is but the latest example.
‐He appears to be having fun doing something that’s not: Campaigning is drudgery, but Cruz, whom nobody has ever mistaken for a people person, seems to enjoy it. By and large, he puts on a happier face than the gaggle of reporters following him. Though this can be said for most of the men running this year, it’s notable that neither Jeb Bush nor Hillary Clinton is much good at keeping up the same act.
‐Even in New Hampshire, his rhetoric has deeply religious undertones: Cruz’s stump speeches in the Granite State, one of the least religious in the country, are just as full of Evangelical buzzwords and biblical references as they’ve been in Iowa, where nearly 60 percent of 2012 caucus-goers identified themselves as Evangelicals or born-again Christians. He routinely asks audiences to pray for the country and, implicitly, for his campaign. “I would ask everyone here to commit, every day from now to Election Day, to spend just one minute a day praying for our country,” he told a crowd packed into the Tilt’n Diner in Tilton, N.H., on Monday. “Would you spend one minute a day saying, ‘Father God please, continue this awakening, continue this revival, awaken the body of Christ to pull us back from this abyss?’”
‐Opposition to the ethanol mandate is popular in New Hampshire: Cruz has come under attack from Iowa governor Terry Branstad and others for his proposal to phase out the so-called ethanol mandate — which requires that gasoline contain a minimum percentage of renewable fuels — over a five-year period. But at a town hall in the Granite State this morning, he answered a question about the issue with a firm rejection of federal mandates — and drew big cheers from the audience. “There should be no mandates, no subsidies whatsoever for any energy source, whether ethanol or oil and gas or anything else,” he said. “Right now I am the only major candidate in Iowa who is taking that position. Right now, my opponents are all attacking me.” (Florida senator Marco Rubio also supports the elimination of the mandate when it expires in 2022, provided that other federal energy subsidies are eliminated along with it.)
‐Voters are genuinely excited about the prospect of a Cruz–Clinton debate: Cruz is in the habit of asking crowds whether they’re excited to see him on a debate stage with Hillary Clinton, and the question routinely draws some of his loudest applause.
— Eliana Johnson is Washington editor of National Review.