As he rolled to wins in Republican caucuses in Kansas and Maine on Saturday, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told supporters in Boise that he is the only candidate who can stop Donald Trump and beat Hillary Clinton.
“What we saw on Super Tuesday, and what we saw confirmed today, is that there is only one campaign that has beaten Donald Trump repeatedly, and there is only one campaign that can and will defeat Donald Trump,” Cruz told a crowd of more than 700 supporters.
Halfway through his 22-minute remarks, the rally took on the air of a victory party as news came of Cruz’s win in Maine.
Trump defeated Cruz in the Louisiana and Kentucky primaries Saturday. But Cruz warned of disaster if Trump takes the GOP presidential nomination.
“If Donald is our nominee, in all likelihood we lose, Hillary becomes president, we lose the Supreme Court for a generation, and we lose the Bill of Rights,” Cruz said.
“We’ll write you in, Ted!” a woman shouted from the audience.
“You’re not going to need to, because we’re going to win the nomination,” Cruz replied to cheers.
Cruz’s Boise appearance in advance of Tuesday’s Idaho presidential primary was confirmed only at midday Saturday. The candidate also stopped in Coeur d’Alene en route to stops in Florida and Illinois, the states with the two biggest delegate prizes on Tuesday, March 15.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, scheduled to visit Idaho Falls and Boise on Sunday, ran third Saturday in Kansas, Kentucky and Louisiana, and last in Maine, behind third-place finisher Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Trump won Kentucky and Louisiana.
It’s easy to talk about making America great again. You can even print that on a baseball cap. But the real question is, do you understand the principles and values that made America great in the first place?
Sen. Ted Cruz
People lined up for the rally on the Boise State University campus long before doors opened at 5 p.m.
“I’ve liked Cruz for almost as long as I haven’t liked the Republican Party,” said Kenny Bastian, a cabinet maker from Boise, attending with his son, Skyler, and daughter, Justine. “He’s kind of been the rebel and I’ve liked watching him.”
Cruz, he said, is “constitutionally based. He’s the candidate who talks about the greatness of the individuals. I think he’s rooted in the founding principles.”
Cruz hit on familiar stump speech themes — protecting religious freedom and gun rights, abolishing the IRS, defeating “radical Islamic terrorism,” reining in environmental regulations, creating a single flat tax and repealing “every word of Obamacare.”
Then he steered back to the election and to Trump. He avoided criticism of Rubio or Kasich, calling them “good, honorable, decent people.”
“But at this point, if we’re going to beat Donald Trump, we’ve got come together, we’ve got to become united, and our campaign is the one campaign that has beaten Donald Trump not once, not twice, but in seven different states,” he said.
In Idaho, with its large Mormon population, Tuesday’s results might be the first indication of how much impact last week’s unprecedented denunciation of Trump by Mitt Romney will have on the race. Just more than one-quarter of Idaho’s 1.6 million residents are Mormon.
Romney has not endorsed a candidate, but Cruz runs with the backing of Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, also a Mormon, in addition to State Treasurer Ron Crane, his state campaign chairman; former state GOP chairman Norm Semanko; Russ Fulcher, a former state senator and 2014 Republican candidate for governor; and 17 current senators and representatives.
Asked at a press briefing whether Romney’s comments would help him, Cruz said: “We are building a coalition, a broad coalition. I’m certainly grateful to have the support of Congressman Raul Labrador, who is someone who has deep respect in the LDS community. ...We are seeing, whether it is the Mormon community, whether it is the Hispanic community, whether it is young people, we’re seeing Republicans coming together and uniting.”
Crane, who traveled with Cruz from Coeur d’Alene, said the candidate was “sick as a dog” from the pace of campaigning. Cruz began the day in Kansas.
“I know he was blown away by the size of the crowds,” Crane said. “We have a good ground game. I like his chances (Tuesday).”
Romney, Crane said, is “loved in this state, so that will probably carry some weight.”
Idaho’s 32 delegates will be awarded proportionately. A candidate needs to win at least 20 percent of the statewide vote to claim any delegates.
Michigan and Mississippi hold Republican primaries this Tuesday along with Idaho; Hawaii’s Republicans will caucus. Idaho’s 32 delegates will be awarded proportionately. A candidate needs to win at least 20 percent of the statewide vote to claim any delegates.
Cruz is second to Donald Trump in delegates, and polls in Michigan and Mississippi have him well behind Trump. The latest public poll in Idaho, conducted at the end of January by the news site Idaho Politics Weekly, had Trump leading Cruz 31-19, with Rubio at 10 percent.
Sierra Talcott, 18, of Boise, attended the Cruz rally with her mother, Marie. An unaffiliated voter, Sierra plans to register Republican to vote in Tuesday’s primary.
“I’m still kind of debating between Cruz and Rubio,” Talcott said. Cruz is “really articulate in his speeches. He’s not as out there as Trump.”
Rubio visits Sunday
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will speak in Idaho Falls at 5:30 p.m. at an airport hangar owned by Melaleuca. A Boise rally is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Jackson Jet Center hangar at the Boise Airport, 3815 Rickenbacker St. Both Rubio events are free, but attendees need to register. Visit eventbrite.com to register or get more details; find a link at IdahoStatesman.com.
The Republican and Constitution parties hold their presidential primaries Tuesday. Voting is restricted to party members, but voters may register and declare their party affiliation at the polls. If you have an absentee ballot, you have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to turn it in to your county clerk.
▪ Polls are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
▪ Vote in your usual polling place. To find it, visit idahovotes.gov.