Today on CNN’s State of the Union, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), GOP presidential candidate, joined anchor, Jake Tapper to discuss tomorrow’s Iowa Caucus.
For more information, see http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com/. Also, text highlights and a transcript of the discussion are below.
MANDATORY CREDIT: CNN’s “State of the Union”
CNN POLITICS STORY: Cruz targets Rubio ahead of Iowa caucuses
Cruz on his performance in Iowa: [TAPPER]: “So, you don't have to win here, necessarily?”
[CRUZ]: “No, absolutely - we don't view any state as a must-win. I think we're positioned to do very well in Iowa. I think we have worked very hard. You know, the grassroots team we have got is unbelievable. It is second to none. We have got 200,000 volunteers nationwide. We have got 12,000 volunteers on the ground here in Iowa.”
Cruz on his and Rubio’s positions on immigration: “Now, if you're asking, who can I trust to do what he said, the fact that, on a signature issue, Marco broke his promise to the American people is significant. That would be like me coming to Washington and suddenly discovering I was for Obamacare. That would be commensurate with what Marco did. And so a vote for Marco is a vote for amnesty. And I will tell you this. If we nominate a candidate who supports amnesty, who has the same position on amnesty as Hillary Clinton, we will lose. The same millions of Reagan Democrats, of steelworkers and autoworkers and truck drivers and electricians who stayed home in 2008 and '12, they will stay home in 2016.”
Cruz on Trump skipping the most recent GOP presidential debate: “I get that it is unpleasant to have your record subject to scrutiny, to be potentially criticized. But this is a job interview. You know, if I was coming to work for you, Jake, if I was interviewing with you, and I called you up and said, I'm not willing to show up at the job interview, you wouldn't hire me. And I think that's what Donald said to the people of Iowa, that he wasn't willing to submit to the scrutiny.”
THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Here in Iowa, Senator Ted Cruz is locked in a brutal battle with Donald Trump, trying to win Republicans and win this state. Will it be enough?
I caught up with Ted Cruz on the trail here in Iowa.
TAPPER: Thanks so much for joining us. Really appreciate it.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's good to be with you.
TAPPER: So, you told a group of pastors recently that, if Trump wins Iowa and New Hampshire, where he already enjoys a substantial lead, there is a - quote - "very good chance he could be unstoppable and be our nominee."
Are you the firewall? Are you the one that can stop Trump from being the nominee?
CRUZ: Look, I will leave political punditry to other folks.
TAPPER: This is your punditry.
CRUZ: What I can tell you is that we're competing hard here on the ground here in Iowa. We're competing hard on the ground in New Hampshire, in South Carolina and Nevada. And we're running a national campaign.
We have got an incredible team all across Super Tuesday, across the SEC states and...
TAPPER: So, you don't have to win here, necessarily?
CRUZ: No, absolutely - we don't view any state as a must-win.
I think we're positioned to do very well in Iowa. I think we have worked very hard. You know, the grassroots team we have got is unbelievable. It is second to none. We have got 200,000 volunteers nationwide. We have got 12,000 volunteers on the ground here in Iowa.
And, tomorrow, we will complete what's known as the full Grassley. We will have been to all 99 counties in the state of Iowa. We will have stood in front of the men and women of Iowa and simply asked for their support, looked them in the eyes and asked for their support.
I think that's what it takes to win Iowa, but we're going to find out tomorrow night.
TAPPER: It's gotten heated between you and the front-runner, Donald Trump, in recent weeks. And you have expressed your concerns about him.
I know that you - he attacked you first, for the record. But you have since counterpunched and talked about your concerns. In retrospect, should you have made your concerns about his, in your view, New York values, his support for partial-birth abortion and more, earlier, do you think?
CRUZ: Yes, well, listen, there's a phase to any campaign.
You know, a month ago, Donald was telling everyone how much he liked me and how much I was his friend. And then his poll numbers started falling, and ours started rising. And now I wake up every day and look at my phone and discover what new insult he has launched out.
TAPPER: There have been a lot.
CRUZ: And they're always interesting. I will give him credit that, when he insults someone, it's always memorable and colorful.
But, you know, my approach has been, I'm not going to respond in kind. So, I don't intend to insult Donald Trump. I'm not going to engage in personal attacks. No matter what he says, I like Donald. I will continue to praise him as bold and brash.
Now, I do think policy differences are fair game. I do think pointing out that he and I have very, very different views on questions like life and marriage and religious liberty, he and I have very, very different views and records on questions like health care and Obamacare and amnesty, and so all of that is fair game.
But I think the people of Iowa deserve more. I think the American people deserve more than just a battle of petty insults. And so I don't intend to play that game.
TAPPER: As you point out, there have been a lot of policy differences you have been highlighting with your opponents.
Lately, you have been focusing more on Marco Rubio, who trails you in the polls here, but some say he has momentum. He, this weekend, said that you - your campaign is being deceitful about his record. Why should voters pick you over Marco Rubio, and why are you better to go after Hillary Clinton in November than Rubio?
CRUZ: Well, listen, I think the central question in this primary is trust. We are tired of being burned.
We keep having politicians who sound great on the trail, and they don't do what they said. If you look at when Marco and I both ran for Senate, when Marco ran in Florida, he promised the men and women of Florida he would lead the fight against amnesty.
In Texas, I promised the men and women of Texas I would lead the fight against amnesty. We made the identical promises. But when we got to Washington, he and I made very different decisions. He decided to break the promise he made to the people who elected him.
And he joined with Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid and Barack Obama, and not only did he not lead the fight against amnesty, but he led the fight to pass amnesty. It was the Rubio-Schumer amnesty bill. It didn't secure the border. It made it easier for Obama to bring in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees without mandating any background checks. That's a serious national security risk. And it granted amnesty to 12 million people here illegally.
Now, I made a very different decision. I chose to stand with Jeff Sessions and Steve King and millions of conservatives across the country against amnesty. We led the fight against it, and we defeated it in Congress.
Now, if you're asking, who can I trust to do what he said, the fact that, on a signature issue, Marco broke his promise to the American people is significant. That would be like me coming to Washington and suddenly discovering I was for Obamacare. That would be commensurate with what Marco did.
And so a vote for Marco is a vote for amnesty. And I will tell you this. If we nominate a candidate who supports amnesty, who has the same position on amnesty as Hillary Clinton, we will lose. The same millions of Reagan Democrats, of steelworkers and autoworkers and truck drivers and electricians who stayed home in 2008 and '12, they will stay home in 2016.
We have got to be fighting for the working men and women of this country. And amnesty takes their jobs and drive down their wages. We have got to be on behalf of the working men and women of this country.
TAPPER: Rubio's response to that, obviously, is that you offered an amendment that would have provided a path to legal status, not citizenship, but a path to legal status.
CRUZ: Yes. And his response is false.
The amendment I offered was 38 words. It was one sentence. And it said nobody here illegally will ever be eligible for citizenship, period, didn't say a word about legalization. I don't - and the differences are very clear now. Marco supports amnesty. He supports legalization. And he supports citizenship today, as a presidential candidate.
I oppose amnesty. I oppose citizenship. I oppose legalization. And, you know, Jake, I will give you another difference, which is, I had pledged on day one to rescind every single illegal and unconstitutional executive order issued by Barack Obama.
That includes President Obama's illegal amnesty. Marco has gone on Univision in Spanish and told Jorge Ramos he will not repeal, he will not rescind Obama's illegal executive amnesty on day one. He says you can't do it overnight, and he won't do it. Now, that's a sharp difference. That's not a personal difference. It's not a personal insult. It's just a difference in policy.
And, by the way, Marco's support for amnesty goes back many, many years, when he was speaker of the House.
TAPPER: In Florida.
CRUZ: In Florida. He led the fight to provide in-state tuition for illegal aliens. I disagree with him on that. He's entitled to have that view, but he doesn't get to try to convince the voters that his position is different from what his record is.
And for anyone who says, well, gosh, how do I know who's telling the truth, I would suggest you look to what Jeff Sessions and Steve King and Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin say. Every one of them says, Marco Rubio led the fight for amnesty and Ted Cruz led the fight against it.
You know, Jeff Sessions in Alabama said, if it weren't for Ted, the Rubio-Schumer Gang of Eight amnesty bill would have passed.
And that's a difference that matters. And I would note, during that whole battle, Donald Trump was nowhere to be found.
TAPPER: Let me ask you one final question.
TAPPER: ... you were - obviously took a lot of heat from the fellow candidates on the stage. And your campaign argues it was an establishment audience, it was not an audience that were a bunch of Cruz supporters.
Do you think that Donald Trump didn't participate in the debate because he wanted you to be the target, or do you think it was because he didn't like Megyn Kelly or FOX News or whatever?
CRUZ: Look, I don't think it was because he was afraid of Megyn Kelly.
I think it was because Donald did not want his record challenged. It's the same reason, actually, that Donald engages in insults, because he can't defend his substantive record. His position on health care is the same as Bernie Sanders'. They both support socialized medicine, expanding Obamacare to put the government in charge of our health care.
His position on cronyism and corporate welfare is the same as Barack Obama. He supported Obama's TARP bailout for the big Wall Street banks. He supported Obama's stimulus, said it should be larger. And so, you know, look, I think it was a real mistake for Donald not to show up at the debate.
I think anyone who wants to win the state of Iowa owes the people of this state the respect to show up at the Iowa debate to answer the questions. I get that it is unpleasant to have your record subject to scrutiny, to be potentially criticized.
But this is a job interview. You know, if I was coming to work for you, Jake, if I was interviewing with you, and I called you up and said, I'm not willing to show up at the job interview, you wouldn't hire me. And I think that's what Donald said to the people of Iowa, that he wasn't willing to submit to the scrutiny.
And I think that's a mistake. I - what I am doing every day is asking the men and women of Iowa, examine my record, pray on this. And I will tell you, if conservatives come out tomorrow night, Monday night at 7:00 p.m., if conservatives come out, we're going to win, and we are bringing together a grassroots army, person to person, friend to friend, pastor to pastor, Iowan to Iowan.
That's how you win the state of Iowa.
TAPPER: All right. Well, good luck. Thanks so much for doing this.
CRUZ: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: Appreciate it.