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Cruz promises a ‘different country’

ST. PAUL -- Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, a rising prospect among GOP voters, took to a St. Paul stage Thursday to pledge he would bring about a radically different country in nearly every way.

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Republican Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz speaks at rally at the Harriet Island Pavilion Thursday in St. Paul. John Autey/Pioneer Press

ST. PAUL -- Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, a rising prospect among GOP voters, took to a St. Paul stage Thursday to pledge he would bring about a radically different country in nearly every way.

In his 20-minute address at a rally attended by hundreds of conservative supporters, he promised he would end the federal health care overhaul, investigate Planned Parenthood, move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, “carpet bomb” Islamic State terrorists, rescind many of President Barack Obama’s executive orders, push a flat tax and forbid cities from giving illegal immigrants “sanctuary” by stripping them of federal funding.

“With me, when I tell you I am going to do something, I am going to do exactly what I said,” said Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas.

The myriad of Cruz’s pledges in his short address may give him an edge in Minnesota’s March 1 caucuses. In the past, state Republicans have tended to caucus for the most conservative candidate who voters believe can bring change.

“Minnesota is going to be a critical state,” Cruz told reporters.

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He noted that he won a recent straw poll of Minnesota Republican leaders by a large margin.

“That is indicative of what we are seeing nationally. What we’re seeing nationally is conservatives uniting together; they’re coming together, and I think people are tired of what I call ‘campaign conservatives.’ ”

Cruz, a Princeton University graduate first elected to the Senate in 2012, has long pitched himself as a true constitutional conservative hope for Republicans displeased with what they see as too much compromise and too many political deals.

In St. Paul on Thursday, he delighted in the dismay he has caused his colleagues.

“If you see a candidate that Washington embraces,” Cruz cautioned to cheers, “run and hide.”

Cruz, more than some in the Republican presidential field, has caused Democratic opponents dismay as well.

“Ted Cruz is trying to prove that he’s tough, but the only thing he’s proving is that he is not ready to be Commander-in-Chief,” said Laura Rosenberger, a foreign policy adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. “The contrast with Hillary Clinton’s comprehensive, substantive strategy to defeat ISIS and protect the homeland could not be more clear. As she said Tuesday in Minneapolis, ‘shallow slogans don’t add up to a strategy.’ ”

On Tuesday, Cruz and the large Republican field met in debate in Las Vegas. During that debate, he was asked about his pledge to “carpet bomb” ISIS, the same pledge Clinton called “bluster and bigotry” in her Minnesota appearance.

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In the debate, Cruz said he was serious about his bombing campaign: “You would carpet bomb where ISIS is, not a city, but the location of the troops. You use air power directed - and you have embedded special forces to direct the air power. But the object isn’t to level a city. The object is to kill the ISIS terrorists.”

The St. Paul rally, in the Harriet Island Pavilion, was one stop in Cruz’s seven-state tour of Super Tuesday states that will have presidential contests on March 1.

In Minnesota, this year’s Republican caucus is expected to attract record numbers of activists. Not only is there a massive field of candidates and an open presidential seat, but the anti-establishment mood of the electorate will motivate people.

Keith Downey, chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party, said campaigns would be wise to woo not just traditional activists but the broader population. He said the party is planning for attendance equaling or exceeding 2008, when a record 65,000 Republicans showed up to caucus.

Cruz’s Super Tuesday state tour is titled “Take-Off with Ted Cruz Country Christmas Tour” and had a holiday feel in the hall. State Rep. Cindy Pugh brought greenery, volunteers staffing the event wore sashes made of Christmas ribbon, and a Cruz-supporting Santa Claus was available for photos with attendees.

Red Bartholomew, the man in the Santa suit, said he is a member of Overpasses for America and stands on highway overpasses with flags to share his belief in liberty, freedom and the Constitution.

Cruz, he said, fits that bill.

“He is, basically, a constitutionalist,” he said.

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