Note: This story was last updated at 1 p.m.
FARRAGUT—Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as “Obamacare,” and he also called for abolishing the Internal Revenue Service during a stop at Farragut High School on Tuesday.
Cruz spoke for about 30 minutes in the Farragut High gym before a standing-room-only crowd of roughly 2,000 people, who helped him celebrate his 45th birthday with a birthday song and cake. The East Tennessee rally was held a little more than two months before the March 1 “SEC primary.”
A first-term Texas senator, Cruz said he plans to rescind every unconstitutional executive order, ask the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Planned Parenthood, end the persecution of religious liberties, and “rip to shreds” the Iranian nuclear deal, which he called “catastrophic.”
Cruz also said the U.S. Department of Education should be abolished, and welfare benefits should end for people who are in the country illegally. He pledged to protect the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, called for killing the Environmental Protection Agency, and jokingly compared regulators to locusts, with a difference being that pesticides can be used to control locusts.
He said he would make health care affordable and portable but keep government out of it.
“We will repeal every word of Obamacare,” Cruz said.
If he is president, Cruz said, “We will utterly destroy ISIS,” the terrorist group that controls parts of Iraq and Syria and has inspired attacks overseas, including in Paris and San Bernardino, California.
“We will defeat radical Islam,” Cruz said.
He said he would move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Cruz also said his administration would pass a single flat tax.
“When we do that, we should abolish the IRS,” he said. Then, he suggested the 90,000 IRS employees could be put to work in another cause, helping to control the United States-Mexican border.
“We need to padlock that door (IRS offices), take all 90,000, and put them down on the southern border,” Cruz said.
He said a nuclear Iran is the single greatest threat to the United States.
Speaking to residents at the Farragut gym, Cruz said Tennessee can help ensure the next president is a “real, proven conservative.”
He paraphrased from the New York Times, saying the newspaper said he couldn’t win after he announced his campaign because the establishment despises him. But Cruz doesn’t seem bothered by the possibility that “the establishment” might not like him.
“I thought that was the whole point,” Cruz said, echoing a line that’s also shown up in a video ad created by a super PAC supporting him.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Cruz is one of the most disliked men in Washington among his fellow senators, including Republicans. But the newspaper said Cruz relishes his reputation as the bad boy of the Senate, where he has “dragged his party into a government-shuttering budget fight and defied party leaders ever since arriving on Capitol Hill in 2013.” He has also accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, of lying about a legislative matter.
There appears to be more disdain for the political establishment among the GOP electorate this campaign season, and that seems to have helped so-called outsider or anti-establishment candidates like Cruz, Donald Trump, and, briefly, Ben Carson. But some well-known Republicans such as former Senator Bob Dole, the GOP’s 1996 presidential nominee, have expressed reluctance to support or vote for Cruz, and Senator John McCain, the 2008 GOP candidate, called Cruz and his allies “wacko birds” in 2013.
There was none of that sentiment at the campaign rally in Farragut on Tuesday, when Cruz said, borrowing a phrase once used by former President Ronald Reagan to describe the United States, “If we stand as one, as we the people, we can restore that shining city on the hill that is America.”
Three people who attended the speech said they liked what Cruz said, agreed with him, or they praised him for what they consider his truthfulness and constitutional principles.
“God bless a man who speaks the truth and upholds the Constitution of the United States,” said Bryan Davis of Farragut. “That’s Ted Cruz.”
“I thought it was great,” said Betsy Grace, an Oak Ridge resident. “Everything I heard I agreed with.”
She used to think Cruz was “a troublemaker,” Grace said, until she read his book.
One woman who asked not to be identified because she is a school system employee called Cruz a religious man who has a vision for the country.
Cruz is among a number of Republican candidates who have visited East Tennessee. Others include Carson, Trump, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich. Trump was reported to have more than twice as many people at his rally—more than 5,000—as Cruz did at his.
Cruz still trails Trump in national polls, but he leads in some polls in Iowa, where voting for party nominees starts with the February 1 caucuses, followed by the New Hampshire primaries on February 9.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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