LE MARS, Iowa (AP) — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz went pheasant-hunting in western Iowa on Saturday, fueling the speculation that he could be considering running for president in 2016.
The tea party Texan went hunting with Republican U.S. Rep. Steve King before the two headed to the Le Mars Convention Center, where Cruz spoke to a sold-out fundraising luncheon for the Iowa congressman, the Des Moines Register reported.
Cruz, a Harvard-educated lawyer, received cheers and a standing ovation after his remarks to about 275 people. Cruz compared the mood of the country to the malaise experienced by Americans during the administration of Democratic President Jimmy Carter in the 1970s.
Cruz pledged to fight for traditional GOP principles of lower taxes, less spending and less government regulation.
"We have done it before and we can do it again. Together again, all of us can restore that shining city upon the hill that is the United States of America," said Cruz, who wore a black checked flannel shirt, blue jeans and black leather cowboy boots.
Cruz, who spoke passionately about his father's rise from poverty after emigrating from Cuba in the 1950s, got some rave reviews from people in heavily Republican Plymouth County. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney received 66 percent of the vote in Plymouth County in November 2012, compared to President Barack Obama's 32 percent, even though Obama carried the state of Iowa.
"I thought his speech was wonderful - very inspirational," said Delana Ihrke, 44, a homemaker who serves on the Le Mars City Council.
Asked if she would support Cruz for president, she didn't hesitate.
"Yes," she said, explaining she was impressed by his strong belief in constitutional principles.
Darin Raymond, 46, of Le Mars, who is the Plymouth County attorney, also said he would support a Cruz presidential bid. "He is well educated and well informed. I think he has the experience and values," he added.
Jesse Martin, 71, a retired law enforcement officer from Danbury in nearby Woodbury County, remarked, "Sen. Cruz gets an A in my book." He said he would back a presidential candidacy by Cruz "without a doubt."
Cruz dismissed speculation about the 2016 presidential race after his speech. Just before getting into a car to head for the airport, Cruz told the Des Moines Register, "It is a tremendous honor to be here. The reception has been very warm, very encouraging, and my focus is on the substance of the battles that we have right now - to bring back jobs and economic growth. And right now the U.S. Senate is the battlefield. So 100 percent of my focus right now is on the U.S. Senate because that's where these fights are being fought right now."