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DES MOINES, Iowa — Sen. Ted Cruz on Saturday helped kick off a morning and afternoon of politicking in this crucial early primary state, telling around 1,500 Republican voters that nominating a consistent conservative is the ticket to winning next year's presidential election.

The Tea Party favorite from Texas, who preceded Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky on the stage, is making a play to consolidate the conservative wing of the Republican Party ahead of the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses. Cruz, who ranks third in the Washington Examiner's presidential power rankings, still trails retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson and businessman and reality television star Donald Trump in the Hawkeye State, but has been making gains in grassroots organization and in public opinion polls.

"Our country is in crisis and we need to stand up and lead to turn it around," Cruz said. "How about this time, we nominate a candidate as committed to conservative principles and [President] Barack Obama is to liberal principles."

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