Cover Story

Latin persuasion

"Latin persuasion" Continued...

Issue: "The GOP and Hispanics," May 19, 2012

Back in Houston, Cruz continues to work 18-hour days so he can join the debate in Washington.

Asked why he is going for a coveted U.S. Senate seat in his first bid for elected office, Cruz said, "If you want to dramatically shrink the size and power of the federal government and address the debt, the Senate is the battlefield. Today there are six or seven strong free market conservatives in the Senate. I think what is absolutely critical is that we grow those numbers."

What stands out about Cruz is not so much his Cuban heritage but his love of America. A Pew Hispanic Center survey showed that while just 8 percent of immigrant Hispanics describe themselves as "American" (as opposed to "Hispanic/Latino" or their country of origin), 35 percent of second generation and 48 percent of third generation Hispanics describe themselves as Americans.

The fact that Cruz identifies himself more with his family's adopted country than with Cuba is clearly reflected in the American history relics that decorate his Houston office. Small statues of Martin Luther King Jr. and Ronald Reagan, posing with a cowboy hat and saddle, sit on a windowsill. ("I will go to my grave with Ronald Reagan defining what it means to be president of the United States," Cruz says.)

A replica of a Texas flag that flew over the Alamo and a framed letter that Lt. Col. William Barret Travis wrote from the besieged Alamo hang on the wall. Cruz likes to quote from the letter at Tea Party rallies: "I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country."

There is even a framed "chad" from the Florida presidential recount in 2000. (Cruz met his wife while they both worked on the Bush 2000 election.) Cruz worked for the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission under Bush. But, as Texas solicitor general, Cruz went against his former boss during a case in which the Bush administration tried to force Texas to submit to an international court's ruling.

Cruz, who opposes amnesty and wants to triple the number of U.S. border control agents, ended his long day by driving an hour outside of Houston to address about 150 people inside Timber Lakes Baptist Church in The Woodlands, Texas. Flanked by an American flag and a Texas flag with two wooden crosses on the wall behind him, Cruz fired up the crowd by joking that politicians disprove the biology lesson that invertebrates can't walk upright.

"It took Jimmy Carter to give us Ronald Reagan," he said, turning serious. "And I am convinced the most long-lasting legacy of Barack Obama is going to be a new generation of the Republican Party standing up and fighting for liberty."

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee is WORLD's Washington Bureau chief. As a reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, he was embedded with a National Guard unit in Iraq. He also once worked in the press office of Sen. Lamar Alexander.

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