Breakfast with Ted Cruz: guns, Texas, and his political future

The Texas Senator's debate skills were on full display at a Monitor Breakfast as he waxed on about his home state's 'shifting political identity' and his plans to run for president again in 2024.

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor
Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas speaks to reporters at a Monitor Breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington on Sept. 12, 2019.

Ted Cruz loves to debate. While at Princeton, the firebrand Republican senator from Texas won the North American debate championship, and in the GOP primary debates of 2015-16, he clearly relished the verbal thrust and parry – even when Donald Trump was calling him names.

So I was intrigued to have Senator Cruz speak at a Monitor Breakfast. Not that we reporters were there to debate him in his appearance last Thursday. We were there to get his take on things, push back on spin, and, we hoped, get a word in edgewise.

Mr. Cruz did not disappoint. He spoke in beautifully formed paragraphs, not an “um” or an “ah” to be found as he made his points. The challenge came when he would, um, filibuster. In our hour together, we didn’t get through many topics – mainly just gun control and the “purpling” of Texas.

But Mr. Cruz did make news. He rejected the letter released that morning by 145 CEOs urging Senate action on gun violence, as The Hill newspaper highlighted. He acknowledged that once-deep-red Texas is now an electoral battleground, declaring that if President Trump loses the Lone Star State next year, it’s “game over.” Monitor reporter Henry Gass incorporated Cruz comments into his story on Texas’s shifting political identity.

After the breakfast, I asked the senator if he’ll try for the presidency in 2024. His answer came as no surprise: “I hope to run again.” That was the headline on my breakfast report.

Mr. Cruz also reminded us of his flair for PR. He’s been publicly feuding with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot over that city’s gun violence, and called her proposal that he come visit an invitation to a “political circus.” He mentioned that two days earlier, he had live-streamed a meeting on guns with actress and liberal activist Alyssa Milano, which he praised for its civility. He joked about his impending one-on-one basketball match with Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang.

“I’m pretty sure he’s taller than I am,” Mr. Cruz quipped.

All of these interactions began as Twitter exchanges, a sign that he’s learned a thing or two from the man who vanquished him in 2016 – and who now calls him “Beautiful Ted,” not “Lyin’ Ted.”

C-SPAN wasn’t able to record our Cruz breakfast, but the audio is available here. CNN did tape the event, and a clip appeared on Chicago TV that night.

Our next breakfast is Oct. 16, featuring Ken Cuccinelli, head of the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services agency.

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