Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz fully assumed the role of Washington outsider, aspiring change agent, and — potentially — anti-establishment victor on Wednesday in New York City. While speaking to a group of hedge funders, the Texas senator once again aligned himself with fellow White House hopeful Donald Trump and went after big business just as much as big government.
“If you think Washington is going great, that we just need someone to fiddle around the edges, then I ain’t your guy,” Cruz told the crowd at the CNBC Delivering Alpha conference in New York.
Speaking onstage with CNBC’s John Harwood, the 44-year-old Cruz again defended Trump’s controversial remarks on illegal immigration — though he conceded when pressed that the real estate mogul “speaks in a way that I wouldn’t speak.” Over the past few weeks, Trump has been under fire for describing undocumented immigrants as “rapists” during his presidential announcement and for saying that “when Mexico sends its people,” they bring drugs and crime.
Nearly every member of the GOP presidential pack has criticized those remarks — including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. But Cruz has repeatedly stood by Trump, telling reporters as recently as Wednesday morning that he’s a “big fan” of “The Donald.”
Cruz reportedly met privately with Trump on Wednesday, though the reasons for that sit-down remain a mystery.
“I think it’s important to highlight illegal immigration,” said Cruz, whose father came to the U.S. legally from Cuba as a teenager. He added during Wednesday’s conference: “I don’t think it’s appropriate to be impugning the integrity of other candidates.” Cruz did, however, accuse those now “smacking” Trump of “vigorously, vocally” advocating amnesty for many years — only to just switch their positions when politically convenient.
“In politics, sometimes verb tenses matter,” Cruz said. “In every election, people become campaign conservatives.”
In addition to potentially alienating some in his own party, Cruz also seemed unconcerned with alienating big business, long viewed as a reliable source of campaign cash for Republicans. The fast-changing landscape on social issues has started to change that relationship, however, and Cruz didn’t seem eager to want to stop it.
“I think the Democrats are the party of the rich, and big government, and cronyism,” Cruz said. Earlier in the day, he praised Congress’ decision to allow the charter for the Export-Import Bank to expire, criticizing the 81-year-old institution — which acted as the U.S. government’s export credit agency — for disproportionately serving big business.
Cruz also stood by what many in his own party have characterized as an extreme response to the Supreme Court’s recent decision that made marriage equality the law of the land. Shortly after that ruling came down, he vowed to propose a constitutional amendment that would subject justices to periodic retention elections — a clear violation of Article III in the Constitution, and one that stands virtually no chance of passing.
Yet Cruz, who once clerked for former Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, did not back down from that position Wednesday.
“Under the Constitution, from the beginning of our nation, marriage has been a question for the states,” he said. “I don’t think it makes sense to have every major policy issue decided by five unelected judges.”