Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, stressed his conservative credentials and tried to spin a disappointing third-place finish in South Carolina during his appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “There is now only one strong conservative in this race who can win, and we see conservatives continually unite behind our campaign,” Cruz said.
The Texas senator reiterated that he’s the only Republican who has a chance of beating rival Donald Trump because “Donald spends every waking moment attacking me. He doesn’t attack any other candidates, because his campaign views us as the only real threat to him.”
He continued: “Our campaign is the only campaign that has beaten Donald Trump and that can beat Donald Trump.”
Cruz, finished just one point behind Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in the first-in-the-South primary, which Cruz says is “effectively” a tie for second.
Even so, Cruz’s showing can’t be welcome news in a state with high evangelical turn-out like South Carolina. He balked at the suggestion that means conservatives aren’t rallying behind him yet.
“Our path to victory from the beginning was always do well in the first four states, and then have a strong, strong night on Super Tuesday coming up on March 1st,” Cruz said.
His home state of Texas is one of the states voting on March 1st, also known as Super Tuesday. Asked if he will beat Trump in his own backyard, Cruz may not have reassured his supporters when he told Chuck Todd, “I certainly hope so. We’re going to work hard to do so.”
Pressed on whether Texas is a “must-win” contest for him, Cruz replied, “We hope we do well. I believe we will do well…Texas is clearly the crown jewel of Super Tuesday. We believe we’re going to do very, very well in Texas and we’re going to do very well across Super Tuesday.”
Turning to attacks from fellow Republican candidates questioning his honesty - and calling him a liar outright - Cruz said, “I will not respond in kind. I do not intend to insult any of the candidates.”
Cruz gave a 30-minute press conference earlier in the week responding to some of the very charges Trump and Rubio were leveling against him. Was he letting his challengers get under his skin? “Both of them were relying on fabrications,” Cruz claimed. However, “I was then and am now very much a happy warrior.”
This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com.