Washington (CNN) - Ted Cruz, the Republican senator-elect from Texas who's replacing retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, knows he doesn’t quite fit certain molds found in Washington.
“I’m something that’s not supposed to exist: An Hispanic Republican,” he said Thursday.
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But it’s precisely that background and his grass-roots appeal that make him attractive to a Republican base that’s hastily seeking to adapt to the nation’s changing demographics.
According to election exit polls, 10% of the 2012 electorate was Hispanic, marking the first time the voting bloc reached a double-digit figure. In 2008, they represented 9% of the vote. President Barack Obama overwhelming won Hispanic voters, 71% to 27% over GOP candidate Mitt Romney.
Speaking to a crowd of conservatives at the American Principles Project gala in Washington, Cruz offered his own post-mortem analysis of the GOP’s big election loss. He said Republicans “didn’t win the argument” on the contraceptive debate and the so-called war on women.
“But far more important,” he said, pausing, “was 47%.”
Perhaps the shortest catchphrase of the election, “47%” has made both parties cringe. Romney took a shellacking from Democrats, as well as some Republicans, after he was secretly recorded saying that nearly half of the country is “dependent” on government and consider themselves victims. Those people, he said, are the ones who would automatically vote for Obama.
Cruz, whose father came from Cuba, said such remarks were “antithetical” to the country’s founding principles.
“We embraced in that comment the Democrat notion that there is a fixed and static pie: the rich are the rich, the poor are the poor, and all that matters is redistributing from one to the other,” Cruz said.
In the days since the election, more Republicans have been frank in their criticism, arguing that Romney portrayed the GOP as a party too willing to write off half of the country.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a former surrogate for Romney, sharply criticized Romney’s comments after the election, especially after the former GOP nominee expanded his remarks on a private call with donors, arguing that Obama had offered policy “gifts” to certain minority groups.
“I absolutely reject that notion,” Jindal said at the Republican Governors Association conference in Las Vegas. “I think that's absolutely wrong.”
He went on to say that Republicans need to chase after 100% of the votes, not just 53% - a thinly veiled swipe at the “47%.”
“I don't think that represents where we are as a party and where we're going as a party,” he continued. “That has got to be one of the most fundamental takeaways from this election.”
In that light, Republican lawmakers and pundits have stressed the need for an urgent makeover of the party that’s more inclusive and welcoming to minority groups, particularly Hispanics.
And Republicans aren't wasting time. This week, two retiring senators - Jon Kyl of Arizona and Hutchison of Texas - teamed up to introduce a Republican version of the DREAM Act, legislation that would offer a path to legal status for children brought to the U.S. illegally if they meet certain requirements. With Congress in a lame-duck session, the bill is unlikely to be taken up.
But Cruz said the party must be careful in its approach. Rather than rush to address immigration, the senator-elect suggested a different path that focuses on jobs and small businesses, two topics that rank consistently high in polls measuring the top concerns among Hispanics.
Cruz argued that the GOP did an “incredibly poor job articulating the message of opportunity” to minority groups and that the focus needs to return to convincing Hispanics that the Republican Party can lay the framework for those wanting to achieve the “American Dream.”
A rising star in the party, Cruz was elected with strong grass-roots support and falls farther to the right of his predecessor. But his heritage, combined with his influence as a soon-to-be senator in a state with many electoral votes, already has some in the political class talking about a potential presidential bid.
Speaking Thursday night, Cruz made no mention of his future aspirations but suggested it won’t be too long until his kind of conservative takes the White House.
“It took Jimmy Carter to give us Ronald Reagan," he said. "And I am convinced the most long lasting legacy of Barack Obama is going to be a new generation of leaders within the Republican Party standing up and defending liberty."
Dear Mr. Cruz,
The Republican Party needed to show that all Americans could have a place in the GOP. Evidently those in charge were not interested in attracting anyone who did not subscribe to the ideology of the Conservative members. They took hold of the party and no other ideas were acceptable.
The best thing that you could do would be to find a way to work with Democrats and to put party affiliation and ideology aside in favor of finding legislation which would set us back on the road to economic recovery.
How do you say "delusional" in Spanish? It doesn't matter. Conservatism is a diseased ideology that is going to soon be extinct, along with the GOP.
Defending liberty by doing exactly what? Suppressing the vote, looking into people's bedrooms. All these new faces talk about jobs,small business,where are the NEW ideas. Who doesn't want ample employment? Tell us something progressive! How about our infrastructure left neglected and taken for granted these last forty years? Where is our country going with power generation? Come on and join the 21st century!!!!
As a Texan let me tell you that Ted Cruz is a true... Idiot.
You don't fool me Cruz. Hope you are willing to work with the Commander in Chief or you will find you new found fame a short one
The Republicans just don't get it.
It will be longer then you think Mr Cruz.
'One of the saddest things about Republicans is there's a great many of' them.
Couldn't have said it better myself. But there will be fewer and fewer of them in the years to come. And that makes it less sad as the years go by until the gop is extinct. Happy Days!
As far as Cruz running for President, I hope he does. He's a crooked lawyer that is involved in all kinds of scandals. I don't know how he even won that senate seat. No way he could be President.
this guy was endorsed by sarah palin – he is a tea party favorite – even perry didn't like him – Perry wanted his corrupt buddy IN – ( david dewhurst) but Cruz had more money -
Well put Mr. Cruz..............I still want to know though are we as a country of laws just going to say to illegal ailens that it was absolutely ok to break our laws and now we will put you on a path to citizenship with no penalities for breaking the law? This does not pertain to the small children who may have been brought here but to adults and teenagers who absolutely knew they were breaking our laws.
This guy is a Akin/Mourdoch clone. Keep giving him a microphone.
Wise of lib media to get this guy out of the spotlight..he is an incredible debater, has an IQ way over 1200 (unlike the San Antonio twins) and fresh ideas in spite of party id.
Cruz says the gop doesnt need latinos just needs to get their base(whites) to vote. hmmmmm i love the way the gop keeps talking about minorites like we are not listening. i dont think most of us what to belong to a party that doesnt like us but will take our vote.
Cruz is one of Sarah Palin's picks.