NASHVILLE, Tennessee–An exuberant crowd of more than 1,000 supporters greeted GOP presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz at the Rocketown entertainment center in downtown Nashville.
Buoyed by a recent Quinnipiac Poll that shows Cruz has narrowed the gap behind front runner Donald Trump to just four points (28 percent to 24 percent), the junior Senator from Texas brimmed with confidence in his speech to voters in this important March 1 SEC primary state.
Cruz told reporters that Donald Trump “may well be right” that it’s becoming a two man race between the two of them:
I did think it was interesting Donald said a couple of days ago that he thought that the Republican race could come down just to him and me. I think he may well be right. If you u look at the polling numbers, we are surging in the polls, and Donald may well be right, because it’s turning more and more into a two man race between Donald Trump and me.
“If that’s the case,” Cruz added, “the decision will be made by the voters, and it will be made by the voters in terms of who has the experience, who has the record, who has been a consistent conservative, standing for the Constitution, standing for our freedoms, standing with the American people,” Cruz said.
The event began in a festive holiday spirit.
A recording of Michael Buble signing “Jingle Bells,” and Charlie Brown Christmas music played during this Tennessee stop of the “Cruz Christmas Tour” before the crowd saw a video featuring conservative activist Ginni Thomas announcing her endorsement of Cruz.
Cruz’s father, pastor Rafael Cruz, then introduced his son.
“Ted Cruz is 45 years old today. He chose to spend his birthday with you,” Rafael Cruz told the crowd as he introduced him, noting that “before my son left high school, he was passionate about the Constitution.”
“The state of Tennessee is critical in the Republican presidential primary this year,” Cruz told the enthusiastic audience.
“Tennessee has a special place in my heart. Tennessee is now the home of the man who led my father to Jesus, Brother Gaylon Wiley. Brother Wiley is here,” Cruz said as he brought Wiley on stage with him.
Wiley asked the crowd to raise hands and lay a blessing on Cruz.
“This one is part political reality, part prayer revival,” Cruz said after the blessing.
Cruz began his address by repeating what has been his well known plan of the five things he intends to do in his first day if he is elected president.
“The first thing I intend to do is rescind every single illegal and unconstitutional executive action.”
Cruz also specifically mentioned today’s anti-Second amendment announcement by Virginia’s Democratic State Attorney General.
“By the way, we saw, in a nearby state—the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Democratic Attorney General in Virginia announced he is canceling Second Amendment reciprocity for Virginia.”
“There are consequences when you elect Democrats to power, and friends don’t let friends go Democrat, because when they get in power, they come and try to take your guns,” Cruz said.
“The second thing I intend to do the first day in office is instruct the United States Department of Justice to open an investigation into Planned Parenthood,” he said.
“The third thing I intend to do on the first day in office is to instruct the Department of Justice and the IRS and every other federal agency that the persecution of religious liberty ends today.”
“The fourth thing I intend to do on the first day in office is rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal.
“The fifth thing I intend to do on the first day in office is move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.”
“In the days that follow, I will go to Congress, and we will repeal every word of Obamacare,” Cruz declared.
“In the days that follow, I will instruct the U.S. Department of Education, which should be abolished, that Common Core ends today!” he shouted.
“In the days that follow, we will finally finally secure the borders and end sanctuary cities.”
“Every one of them will find their federal funds cut off,” Cruz said of the 360 cities and other entities that have declared themselves sanctuary cities.
“We’re going to build a wall that works.”
“We will have a commander-in-chief he makes clear to the world we will defeat radical Islam. We will have a president willing to utter the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ … We will completely destroy ISIS.”
Further, “We should abolish the IRS.”
Of our economic and international situation today, Cruz said “the parallels with the Jimmy Carter administration are astounding.”
Cruz said that malaise in 1980 was solved by the Reagan Revolution.
“Washington despised Ronald Reagan.”
“Why am I so optimistic?” he asked rhetorically.
“The same thing is happening again,” he answered.
“If you think Washington is fundamentally broken…. take power out of Washington, back to we the people, that is what this campaign is all about,” Cruz concluded.
Several in the audience have signed up to run as delegates supporting Cruz in the GOP primary. Though polling in Tennessee has been sparse, the sense on the ground is that Cruz is the man to beat in Tennessee. One major factor in his favor is that he has lined up the lion’s share of the more high profile conservative state legislators as well as the activists on the ground who actually get the work done of knocking on doors and talking to voters.
Optimism among those activists that Cruz will win the GOP Presidential primary in Tennessee is high.
Former State Rep. Joe Carr, who lost to Lamar Alexander in the 2014 GOP Senate primary by a 49 percent to 40 percent margin, was an early endorser of Cruz.
“He’s going to win Tennessee because he’s a constitutional conservative. The rest of the nation is finding out right now what Tennessee already knew. Sen. Ted Cruz is headed to the White House,” Carr tells Breitbart News in an exclusive interview.
“Ted Cruz is not simply an alternative to a liberal Democratic agenda. He is the antidote,” Julie West, a Ted Cruz supporter from Franklin tells Breitbart News.
“If he starts with Iowa, the dominoes may fall at that point to possibly win in Tennessee. If he campaigns enough here to get the grassroots support in the way he has in Iowa and in his home state of Texas, he has a good chance of winning,” said one supporter.
“If he continues with his conservative principles, he will have no trouble winning Tennessee,” another supporter says.
“We’re a very red state here,” that supporter adds.
“With God all things are possible. Ted Cruz is going to win Tennessee,” Christina Parker, another Cruz supporter in the audience, tells Breitbart News.
“I think Ted Cruz has a good chance of winning in Tennessee. I don’t think it’s guaranteed at this point, but he’s one of the top two or three.
“If his momentum continues, and Donald Trump quits stealing the show, he has a good chance of winning,” a 65-year old supporter from Franklin tells Breitbart News.
“I think Trump’s support is widespread but it’s shaky. People have a tough time balancing the good and bad of Trump,” he adds.
“We absolutely think Ted Cruz is going to win in Tennessee. We have the best, most comprehensive, and dedicated grassroots presidential campaign team of any campaign in Tennessee,” Cruz State Chair Kevin Kookogey tells Breitbart News in an exclusive interview.
Donald Trump, however, has a very strong presence in Tennessee as well.
His previous rallies in Nashville, Knoxville, and Franklin garnered thousands of supporters. In Knoxville, the crowd size was estimated at 10,000.
And Trump is not without the support of prominent Tennessee state legislators.
State Senator Mae Beavers (R-Lebanon), a stalwart conservative known across the state for her successful leadership in 1999 to 2002 to stop a state income tax, has endorsed Trump and is firmly in his corner. Now 2016 looms.