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Cruz Questions Trump's Temperament As Commander In Chief

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, departs a campaign stop in Washington, N.H., on Monday.
Matt Rourke / AP
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, departs a campaign stop in Washington, N.H., on Monday.

The presidential primary has now reached the final two-week stretch before Iowans meet to caucus on Feb. 1, but Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is spending some of those precious final days making a swing through New Hampshire.

Unlike Iowa, where Cruz is neck and neck with Donald Trump, New Hampshire is a state where Trump dominates, leading the rest of the pack by nearly 20 points in recent polls.

But Cruz said he believes the campaign is entering a "different phase," where voters will take a closer look at candidates' records — particularly Trump's.

"And as much as I like Donald Trump personally, there is a marked difference between his record and my record," Cruz said.

On the campaign trail in New Hampshire this week, Cruz has stressed that he "likes" Trump, while also raising questions about his resume, temperament and conservative credentials.

Aboard his campaign bus Monday evening, Cruz told NPR that voters want "someone they can trust — not someone who, on any given day, they don't know what he's likely to do."

He continued, "I think the American people want a steady hand at the helm. They want someone they know and trust. They don't want to wake up every day wondering if the latest polls might set off the commander in chief into a frenzy of tweets."

Despite the fact that New Hampshire is a more challenging state for a very conservative Republican like Cruz, he said the push in this state is part of his campaign's strategy to make a strong showing in all of the early voting states.

Cruz said he is "all in" in each of the states that vote in February: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

"We are very much running a national campaign," Cruz said. "Unlike a number of candidates in the field, we don't view any of these one states as a must-win for us."

Cruz is also looking ahead to Super Tuesday on March 1, also nicknamed the "SEC Primary" after the college-football conference, when voters in several Southern states, including Cruz's home state of Texas, go to the polls. Cruz's campaign has been building a grass-roots network and recently made a campaign swing through March 1 states, including Alabama, Georgia and Virginia.

"So, we believe we're positioned to do well in the first four states," Cruz said, "and we believe Super Tuesday's going to be a tremendous day for us."

Trump was in the Super Tuesday state of Virginia on Monday. During a speech at the conservative Christian Liberty University, Trump promised to "protect Christianity."

Cruz said he's "very glad" to hear that pledge but suggested it's an easy one to make.

"Every Republican in this race has at one time or another promised to defend religious liberty," Cruz said. "Why? That's what you do when you're running in a Republican primary. The voters are looking for a proven record and not just campaign promises."

Defending religious liberty has been a rallying cry for Cruz's campaign. He's used it to pull together massive rallies in early primary states, as his campaign has bolstered its grass-roots organizing and fundraising operations with evangelical supporters.

In New Hampshire, Cruz is trying to convince voters that he can be trusted to keep his campaign promises — even if other politicians have disappointed them.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sarah McCammon worked for Iowa Public Radio as Morning Edition Host from January 2010 until December 2013.
Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.
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