It might have been the emotional high point of Ted Cruz’s campaign for president. The hulking, corrugated steel Building C at the Johnson County Fairgrounds was jampacked Sunday with perhaps 700 or more people, and the Texas-based conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck was on the stage in a blue baseball cap, holding the throng in a rapt and responsive thrall as he introduced Cruz.
America is hurtling toward catastrophe, Beck warned, but it could still be saved if Cruz — who grew up in Texas with the Bible and the Constitution on his kitchen table and stands in the tradition of our Founding Fathers — is elected president.
“This is not a show for you. This is a responsibility,” Beck told the Iowans of the seriousness with which they approach the Monday caucuses, the first word of any voters in the 2016 Republican nominating contest.
“This may be decided before it gets to Texas. This may be decided this week here,” Beck said. “You have more of a voice than I do.”
Make history, he implored them.
“It is the Cruz revolution. It will begin tomorrow in Iowa,” Beck said. “He will be the first Hispanic president and the most conservative president since Calvin Coolidge — (U.S.) Sen. Ted Cruz.”
It was a perfect closer for Cruz’s Iowa campaign, which will end at 7 p.m. Monday when Iowans convene in a couple of thousand caucus sites to make their choices.
All across Iowa on Sunday, in venues large and small, presidential candidates and their surrogates were making their closing arguments before the voters, though events such as this will continue right up until the caucuses begin. And the caucuses themselves include speechifying by advocates for each candidate, which can be decisive for the significant percentage of Iowans who arrive at the caucuses not firmly moored to a candidate.
A blizzard forecast to arrive late Monday in parts of the state could affect turnout, which usually is about 1 in 5 voters, though it might strand the army of operatives and journalists attempting to head home from Iowa or on to New Hampshire, which will hold the second nominating contest a week from Tuesday.
But every Iowan with a TV or radio has been living for weeks through an intensifying blizzard of negative ads, intended to persuade a citizenry renowned for its niceness that the field of Republican candidates is replete with liars, deceivers and hypocrites.
The last Iowa Poll, conducted for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics and released Saturday evening, had Donald Trump leading with 28 percent, to 23 percent for Cruz and 15 percent for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. In the Register’s mid-December poll, Cruz had 31 percent, leading Trump by 10 points.
Beck said there are a lot of good Republican candidates, but that there is one he cannot abide — meaning Trump, but, like Voldemort, not saying his name.
“That’s not a joke,” Beck said. “He concerns me.
“He says, ‘I will make America great again,’ ” Beck said. “No man can do that. It is we the people who can make America great. It is the president’s job to get the government out of the way so we can do that.”
The crowd erupted in cheers and applause.
Cruz told the audience: “All across the state of Iowa, all across America, people are waking up. Help is on the way.”
Cruz would dearly love to recapture the lead, defeat Trump and go to New Hampshire with a head of steam. He would also like to see as much daylight as possible between himself and Rubio, who has been gaining on him, and whom Cruz ads now tag as “the Republican Obama.”
The Sunday morning TV politics shows provided each of the candidates a last opportunity to decry one another, each in his own voice, before a national audience.
“A vote for Marco Rubio is a vote for amnesty,” Cruz said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. “And a vote for Donald Trump is a vote for Obamacare.”
“Look, Ted Cruz is a total liar,” Trump said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“I am so against Obamacare,” Trump said. “But he’s a liar. He didn’t even put down on his financial disclosure forms that he borrowed money from banks at low-interest loans, lower than you could get, lower than anybody could get. He’s got these favorable deals from banks on Wall Street, and he never put it down on his financial disclosure forms.”
“I mean, look, Ted is a liar,” Trump said. “This is why nobody likes him.”
On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Trump pivoted to his favorite line of attack on Cruz.
“But I think much more important is this whole fact that he was born in Canada. And he was a citizen of Canada until 15 months ago,” Trump said. “He says it is untested. But there are many lawyers coming out, top constitutional lawyers, that say Ted Cruz cannot run for president, he can’t be president because of the fact he was born in Canada.”
Cruz responded in “Meet the Press.”
“Look, as others attack me, I don’t respond in kind,” Cruz said. “I don’t engage. When Donald Trump calls me a Canadian anchor baby, I don’t respond with an insult. In fact, I’ll sing Donald’s praises. I like Donald. I think he’s bold and brash. Now, I think his policies are liberal. I think he’s been too willing to cut a deal and get along with Democrats and grow government and support cronyism.
“But that’s a policy distinction. And at the end of the day, why was Reagan able to change the country? Because he built a grass-roots movement, the Reagan revolution, that turns this country around,” Cruz said, trying to close the sale. “That’s what we’re doing. We’ve got 12,000 volunteers in Iowa. And it’s all about turnout. If conservatives want a principled conservative to not get burned again, they need to come out Monday night, 7 p.m.”
American-Statesman chief political writer Jonathan Tilove has spent the past week in Iowa, following the Ted Cruz campaign. Find Tilove’s take on the latest campaign news most mornings in the First Reading blog on mystatesman.com.
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