Ted Cruz eyes the White House: ‘I hope to run again’

When the Texas Republican ran in 2016, it was ‘the most fun I’ve ever had in my life,’ he said. At Thursday’s Monitor Breakfast, the senator also talked guns and the ‘purpling’ of Texas.

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor
Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas speaks with Monitor reporter Linda Feldmann at the St. Regis Hotel on September 12, 2019 in Washington, DC.

Sen. Ted Cruz sounds ready to run for president again – in 2024. 

Speaking to The Monitor after a breakfast session with reporters, the Texas Republican didn’t hesitate when asked if he would take another crack at the White House. 

“Look, I hope to run again,” said Senator Cruz, who was the runner-up last time to Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. “We came very, very close in 2016. And it’s the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.”

If President Trump wins reelection next year, he won’t be eligible to run again; and if a Democrat wins, Republicans will start lining up right away. Mr. Cruz may be first out of the gate. 

“The great thing is, every issue I was fighting for in the presidential campaign is front and center in the Senate,” he said. 

Mr. Cruz’s comment on 2020 came out of a discussion on the nation’s fiscal imbalance; the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projecting a fiscal-year 2019 deficit of $960 billion and deficits averaging $1.2 trillion annually between FY2020 and 2029. The debt is at $22 trillion and rising. 

Mr. Cruz first ran for the Senate in 2012 as a tea party outsider, intent on cutting taxes, regulation, and spending. While Mr. Trump has done the first two, addressing deficits has not been a high priority. In his 2016 presidential campaign, Mr. Cruz’s proposed spending cuts included eliminating five federal agencies. But, he said, spending cuts aren’t enough. 

“It takes presidential leadership, and it won’t come from Congress,” Mr. Cruz said. “I will say, though, the most powerful tool for addressing the deficit and the debt is not actually spending cuts. The most powerful tool is economic growth, which is why that’s my No. 1 priority.”

In 2016, he proposed a flat tax – 10% for every family and individual and 16% for every company. Such cuts, on top of the 2017 Trump tax cuts, he said, would be “profoundly pro-growth in terms of driving jobs.”

The Monitor Breakfast with Mr. Cruz was dominated by discussion of how to reduce gun violence and the “purpling” of Texas. 

“Texas is a battleground,” he said. “Texas is going to be hotly contested in 2020. I believe the president will win Texas. I think it will be closer than last time.” 

In 2016, Mr. Trump won the state’s 36 electoral votes by 9 percentage points, the smallest winning percentage in Texas since 1996. Now, with an influx of young, liberal voters, growing diversity, and suburban women, in particular, increasingly leery of the president, Republicans in the state are voicing concern. The key for Mr. Trump and the GOP next year will be to make sure their voters turn out, Mr. Cruz said. 

“The far left is pissed off. They hate the president and that is a powerful motivator,” he said. “If the left shows up in massive numbers and everybody else doesn’t, that’s how we end up with an incredibly damaging election.”

Here are more highlights from the breakfast: 

On the letter released Thursday from 145 CEOs calling on the Senate to take up gun control legislation: 

I promise you, the people signing this letter, they don't have any of the details of background checks or red flags. This is about social signaling at the country club. 

On whether Congress needs to address gun violence:

Yes, Congress needs to act. The gun control crowd saying that the only alternative to what they are pushing is do nothing – that is an empty straw man. One of the very first pieces of legislation I introduced in the Senate was legislation focused on violent gun crime, stopping gun crimes. And the way to do that is you target the bad guys. You target felons and target fugitives. You target those with serious mental illness that makes them a danger to themselves and others. 

What is his solution to the epidemic of gun violence? 

Look at what Grassley-Cruz [legislation] does. Number one, it improved and strengthened the background check system. There are far too many felony convictions that are still not in the background check system… Grassley-Cruz, among other things, mandated the Department of Justice conduct an audit of every federal agency to make sure that federal convictions are all included. 

The second piece is, for far too long, DOJ [the Department of Justice] has had a policy by and large of not prosecuting felons and fugitives who lie on their background check form to try to illegally buy guns. 

What Grassley-Cruz mandated is the Department of Justice create a gun crime task force and they prosecute felons and fugitives who lie on their background check forms. And if Grassley-Cruz had passed, there is a very good possibility that the Sutherland Springs [Texas] shooter would have been prosecuted when he lied on that form, and that means he would have been in a federal jail cell instead of murdering those innocent people in that beautiful church. 

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