OTR Interviews

Texas Senator-elect Cruz: GOP must do better job of portraying itself as party of small businesses, the American Dream to Latinos

Tea Party favorite who will be first Hispanic to represent Texas in US Senate on how GOP can better reach Latinos and working with Obama and Democrats


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 19, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight the future of the Republican Party. Hispanics are a crucial voting bloc. So what will Republicans do to win them over? That is just one of the questions we asked rising GOP star Texas Senator-elect Ted Cruz.


VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you, sir.

SENATOR-ELECT TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS: Greta, it's great to be with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Welcome to Washington. Are you ready?

CRUZ: I hope so. We've got a lot to do.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's your dream list of things to do?

CRUZ: Look, I think we need to turn the country around. I mean, my dream list and my priorities are very simple. They're cutting spending and the debt, reforming regulations, and fundamental tax reform, and all of those are focused at generating growth. We've got to get our economy going. We've got to get people back to work.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't know if you've noticed. Everybody is fighting on Capitol Hill. Have you seen that.

CRUZ: I haven't seen that so far, but I think that is the world in which we live.

VAN SUSTEREN: Every single person who I talk to in the house and the Senate, Republican or Democrat, wants to make the country better, and whether it's, you know, cutting spending or doing something to entitlements or whatever wants to do it. For some reason, everyone hits the wall and fights. You're going to be in the minority party once you're sworn in. How are you going to do that in the minority? Have you given that any thought?

CRUZ: It's going to be very challenging. Ideas matter. I agree with you. Most of the people here are here for good reasons, they have good intentions but there are fundamentally different approaches to what direction our country should go in, and so for those Democrats or even those Republicans who think the answer should be more of the last four years, more and more spending, more and more and more debt, more and more regulations, more and more taxes, and many of them believe that as a heartfelt genuine belief, I think that's the wrong path. I think that's a dangerous path. I think that will hurt the country and hurt Americans, and so even if they're fighting for it in good conscience, I will certainly do everything I can to stop us from going down that path because I don't think it works.

VAN SUSTEREN: Take the budget. Senator Harry Reid has not let a budget come to the floor. He's in the majority party. That's what he gets to do. You may want to have a budget. You may want the Senate to come up with a budget. How frustrated are you going to get?

CRUZ: I think the Senate has been really irresponsible in the last few years. As you know, we haven't had a budget in over three years. I think if the Democrats want to pursue big government policy, they ought to vote on it. They've got to go on record and say this is what we want to do, this is our budget.

I do think the next couple of years are going to be challenging. They're going to be challenging because we've got a president who was reelected. We've got a Democratic majority and Harry Reid back in power whose philosophies and ideas I think are contrary to great many Americans. We're going to have a lot of gridlock, unfortunately.

I hope I'm wrong. I will say this. If President Obama actually means what he said on the campaign trail, if he really does want to bring people together, work to turn around our debt, to get people working again, I will happily work with him. I'll work with anybody. But if he intends to double down on the path of the last four years, then I intend to do everything I can to stop us from continuing down that road.

VAN SUSTEREN: Big fight in the city, immigration. President Obama promised to get some immigration reform. He gave a big speech at American University. We went and listened to it. We didn't get immigration reform but he did better against Governor Romney. The Republican Party seems to get almost about 29 percent of the Hispanic vote. What's with your party? Why don't Hispanics want to vote with your party?

CRUZ: Well, there's no doubt Republicans, we've got to do a better job with the Hispanic community.

VAN SUSTEREN: What does that mean?

CRUZ: I think so far Republicans have been lousy at communicating our ideas in the Hispanic community. I think the irony is the values in the Hispanic community are fundamentally conservative.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's what Governor Susanna Martinez said in her speech at the RNC, that she herself had been a Democrat until she had lunch with a Republican, and then she said wow, I'm a Republican. But the Hispanics, they don't buy it. At least they didn't in the election.

CRUZ: Well, in this election they didn't because Democrats did a far better job communicating their message than we did. But you mentioned Governor Martinez and the national convention. The contrast of the Republican and Democrat conventions were striking. At the Republican conventions there were four statewide elected officials or candidates who were Hispanic -- Susanna Martinez, Brian Sandoval, both governors, and then Marco Rubio and myself. The Democrats had zero.

And I think the reason is there's a difference in how the parties approach Hispanics. Unfortunately, the Democrats pigeonhole candidates, so they had mayors and members of Congress. But they've got a real problem getting Hispanics elected statewide because when you pigeonhole a candidate, you're not able to have candidates that appeal broadly to Americans not just to one ethnicity but to values that bring us all together. I think that shows a lot of promise the direction the Republican Party can go in the future.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it "I" word, immigration? A lot of people vote for single issues. A long time people voted on the issue of abortion or because it was a woman candidate or an African-American candidate. But the immigration has been so important to the Hispanic community. Do you think that's what drives the voter or drove the last one? If so, what would you like to see your party do on that?

CRUZ: You know, I actually don't think it's immigration that's driving the vote. I think the Democrats want immigration to drive the vote and they're using it as a wedge issue to try to scare the Hispanic community. And I think tone matters. I think Republicans' tone on immigration needs to be improved.

But I'll tell you, every poll I've ever seen of the Hispanic community shows their number one issue is jobs and the economy exactly like the rest of this country. What Republicans didn't do a good job of is taking the message to the Hispanic community. If you want opportunity -- you know, under Barack Obama Hispanic unemployment grew faster than employment generally, over 10 percent.

VAN SUSTEREN: Then how come he got more Hispanic votes? Is it really such a bad message delivery he service by Governor Romney or nobody didn't pay attention?

CRUZ: Unfortunately, yes. We didn't make the argument to the Hispanic community that the path to opportunity -- there are 2.3 million Hispanics who are small business owners. Nearly one in 10 Hispanic households in the country is a small business owner. When my dad came 55 years ago from Cuba, he washed dishes, making 50 cents an hour, couldn't speak English, but he was able to start a small business. What Republicans should have been doing is far more effectively championing small businesses as the path to climbing the economic ladder. That has been the American dream, and we've got to be more effective carrying that message.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, two part question. You'll be on some committees. Which is the one you think will be the most interesting intellectually for you and the most fun. Which one do you think you should probably be on for your constituents back home?

CRUZ: Committees are ultimately a decision that's outside my hand. That is made by the leadership, so I'll leave those discussions internally rather than trying to lobby publicly. I can tell you this, though. My priorities will be the three I mentioned at the outset, cutting spending and the debt, regulatory reform, and tax reform.

And the reason for regular reform and tax reform is what is critical is growth. If you want to turn our economy around and get the 23 million people who are struggling to find jobs back to work, we've got to get economic growth back. My singular focus every day in the U.S. Senate is removing the barriers to small businesses, to entrepreneurs, creating jobs, and growing the economy. I think regulatory reform and tax reform along with sound money are the most effective ways to enable small businesses to create jobs and grow our economy.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, we'll see if those committees that you get and we'll see what happens. Welcome to Washington. Happy to have you. Of course, you'll come back often now that you're just a block away, right?

CRUZ: I look forward to it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you. Nice to see you, sir.

CRUZ: Thanks, Greta.