Ted Cruz Embarks On Bus Tour Through New Hampshire
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
So with all that, you might expect that Ted Cruz would be in Iowa, too. Well, he's not. The Texas senator is in New Hampshire, where Donald Trump dominates the polls. Cruz is trying to convince voters that he has the qualifications and temperament to serve as commander-in-chief, qualities that he says Donald Trump doesn't have. NPR's Sarah McCammon has been aboard the Cruz bus and sent this report.
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: It is cold and snowy here in Keene, N.H., and we're in front of Lindy's Diner. The snow's coming down, and there are a few dozen people gathered out here, waiting for Ted Cruz.
You're not even wearing a hat.
CATHERINE CHANDLER: Oh, I'm used to it (laughter).
MCCAMMON: Have you ever stood outside for a candidate like this before in the cold?
CHANDLER: No, no, first time. It's worth it.
MCCAMMON: That was Catherine Chandler from West Swanzey. She came to see Cruz at his first stop of the day yesterday morning.
CHANDLER: Well, I think he's the only true conservative. A lot of times during the campaigns, you know, they talk like they're conservatives to get the basis vote.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Hey, how you doing?
MCCAMMON: After Cruz pulled up in his black campaign bus, the crowd pressed into the small space inside the diner as Cruz stood behind the counter.
TED CRUZ: Now, the first question I want to ask is, can anyone a cup of coffee?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Yes.
CRUZ: And maybe some eggs over-easy.
MCCAMMON: Cruz launched into his stump speech, telling voters he believes the country is ready for change.
CRUZ: All across the state of New Hampshire, people are waking up.
MCCAMMON: Outside, Mike Brown of Spofford, N.H., said Cruz is a rare politician that he trusts.
MIKE BROWN: He means what he says, and he's smart, you know? That guy's brilliant.
MCCAMMON: But Brown is not a fan of the candidate leading the polls here, Donald Trump.
BROWN: He - I think he's a dangerous man, and I think if he gets into power, we're going to regret it.
MCCAMMON: With that, I was back on the bus and off to our next stop - Washington, N.H.
CRUZ: You know, I'm going to say a sentence that I think I've never uttered before. It is great to be in Washington.
MCCAMMON: Cruz is far from the only candidate running on an anti-Washington platform. He's trying to close the gap between himself and Trump, who is arguably the biggest outsider in the race. But last night on his campaign bus, Cruz said he believes things have reached a turning point.
CRUZ: I think we're at the stage in the campaign where the voters are assessing candidates not on what we say, not on their campaign rhetoric but on our records.
MCCAMMON: This morning in Freedom, N.H., Cruz made a similar argument.
CRUZ: Last couple of days, he's been getting rattled. He's been throwing some insults my way. I don't intend to respond in kind.
MCCAMMON: But then, he went on to attack Trump over policy, questioning his conservative bona fides.
CRUZ: Mr. Trump enthusiastically supported President Obama's stimulus plan and said the only problem was it should've been bigger. I don't think we should have a massive payoff to lobbyists from taxpayers.
MCCAMMON: Cruz is telling voters he believes the GOP primary is increasingly a two-man race even though he's neck-and-neck in the polls here in New Hampshire with Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Ohio Governor John Kasich while Trump is nearly 20 points ahead of them. In Betsy Bradt's household, there are just two choices.
BETSY BRADT: Trump and Ted Cruz, I guess, right now.
MCCAMMON: Bradt says her husband is a Trump fan, but she wants someone a little more diplomatic.
BRADT: I don't like the way he puts down everybody, but I don't know. My husband feels, you know, that he's really going to do well in the long run. But there's just too many candidates.
MCCAMMON: For now, there are still nearly a dozen Republicans, but that will change soon after voters in Iowa and here in New Hampshire have their say. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Wakefield, N.H. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.