KINGSTON, N.H. (AP) – Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz framed himself Wednesday night as the political heir to Donald Trump should the billionaire businessman stumble in his effort to win the party's nomination, saying Trump's supporters should come to his campaign.
Trump "has helped frame the central issue of this primary as 'who will stand up to Washington,'" the Texas senator told supporters at a town hall the day after the latest GOP debate. "The natural next question is who actually has stood up to Washington. And in that regard there's a marked difference between my record and that of every other person on that debate stage."
As Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson remain atop the field in recent polling, Cruz is positioning himself as an alternative should either stumble. In doing so, he's starting to draw sharper contrasts with his rivals, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Trump himself.
"Let me point out when it comes to standing up to Washington, I was doing it long before Mr. Trump was running for president," Cruz said.
Cruz reminded supporters of his differences with other candidates on bailing out big banks – he is against bailouts – and on immigration reform.Cruz opposes what he calls "amnesty" for people in the U.S. illegally, while Rubio was an original sponsor of a bill calling for comprehensive changes in immigration policy – the so-called "Gang of Eight" bill – a position he has backed off during the campaign.
"It is not complicated that on the seminal fight over amnesty in Congress, the Gang of Eight bill, that I stood with the American people and led the fight to defeat it," Cruz said.
The Texas Republican also said that the rest of the GOP presidential candidates were "nowhere to be found" in the Senate fight to defund Planned Parenthood earlier this fall. Rubio missed the Senate's Planned Parenthood vote.
Cruz called the Tuesday debate "productive" because it allowed voters to begin seeing clear and meaningful policy distinctions between the candidates.