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Hannity

'Hannity' on the road: Ted Cruz talks to voters in Tennessee

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," February 26, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST:  And welcome to beautiful Nashville, Tennessee, where we are on the road with the candidates.  And tonight for the entire hour, we're joined by Texas senator Ted Cruz.

Welcome to Nashville, Senator.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  It's -- now, I don't -- were you busy last night?  Was something going on last night?  Did everyone see the debate last night?

AUDIENCE:  Yes!

HANNITY:  That was a rip-roaring debate.

SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, listen.  I think it was a terrific debate.  And I got to say I had a lot of fun, which is important.  You got to have fun.  But I think it also provided some real clarity.  It provided some real distinctions between the candidates, and I think the people understand the stakes in this election are really high.  And I got to say I think Donald Trump had a tough night.

(CHEERS)

HANNITY:  OK.  Let me -- you are the only one up to this point beside Donald Trump that has won a state.

CRUZ:  Yes.

HANNITY:  OK.  You are doing well in your home state of Texas, which takes place on Tuesday.  There is a very strong possibility that out of Tuesday, the only two candidates that will have won states are you and Donald Trump.  There's a poll out that shows Marco Rubio down 20 points in his state of Florida.

If after super-Tuesday, any of the other candidates have not won a state, do you think they should get out of the race?

CRUZ:  Well, look, I think you're right that as we look at this race right now -- we've had four primaries.  The role of the first four primaries historically is to narrow the field.  And they have.  I mean, we started with 17 candidates.  You remember at the beginning, I mean, you needed practically a phone book to tell all of us apart.  And it's now narrowed considerably.

You know, nobody has ever won the nomination who hasn't won one of the first three states.  And only two of us have done that, Donald Trump and myself.  And I do think super-Tuesday is going to be the most important day in this entire election.  Super-Tuesday, you've got 11 states nationwide that are making their decisions, including the great state of Tennessee.

And that vote -- I think there's a very significant possibility we'll come out of that with Donald having won some delegates, with me having won a bunch of delegates, and with everyone else with very, very few delegates.

And I think if that happens -- you know, 65 percent of Republicans say Donald is not the right guy to go head to head with Hillary.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ:  And I think we saw last night why that was.  I think we saw last night on issue after issue after issue, Donald's positions are identical to Hillary.  The problem is the risk is too high if we nominate Hillary that Donald loses and we end up losing this country.

And so for those 65 percent of Republicans that say Donald's not the right guy, I would encourage everyone here in Tennessee, everyone across super- Tuesday, if you don't want to see Donald Trump as the nominee, we need to unite, and the candidate who is running neck and neck with Donald in the states across super-Tuesday is me.  If you want to beat Donald, stand with us.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  Let me ask you this.  And maybe this is really a question for the audience because I view both you and Donald Trump as the two big insurgent candidates.  And let's be honest.  If there are two people that are hated by the establishment, probably you're at the top and Donald's a close second.

And I want to ask maybe the crowd here -- and you can applaud if you want to but -- are you angry -- how angry on a scale of 1 to 10 are you at Washington, D.C., Republicans and do you think that's what's...

(CHEERS)

HANNITY:  Are you?  You know, because to what extent do you think -- because it's really -- it is coming down to you and him as the only two that are winning states after super-Tuesday.  That tells me that there's palpable anger.  Where's that anger coming from?  Because I feel it myself.

CRUZ:  Sure.  Look, you and I both understand.  It's people are furious because we keep having politicians -- they make promises to us, and then they go to Washington and they break their word.  They promptly cut deals with the Democrats.  They don't do what they said.

I mean, none of this is complicated.  You know, what I've tried to do in the Senate has been two things, tell the truth and do what I said I would do.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  You know, it is interesting to watch how your fellow senators respond to you.  I don't know if you all remember John McCain referred to Senator Cruz as a "wacko-bird."  Lindsey Graham was joking about killing you yesterday.  I'm sure you've heard about it.

Is it because you kept your promise on health care and you were willing to use the power of the purse that they were not willing to do?  Is that divide that big now?

CRUZ:  Sean, of course it is, and it's a real simple -- you've got career politicians in Washington in both parties that get in bed with the lobbyists and special interests.  That's how you get a $19 trillion debt.  
It's not one party, it's both parties.  And...

(APPLAUSE)

CRUZ:  You know, it is amazing, the Washington establishment tells you which candidates they want.  You know, it was really quite striking.  Bob Dole -- Bob Dole said a few weeks ago, he said, Well, listen.  Donald Trump I'm just fine with.  Why?  Because Donald Trump will cut deals.  We can work with Donald Trump.  We need someone who will cut deals with us. That's what Donald will do.  That Cruz guy, he actually believes this stuff!

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ:  And Sean, as you know, that exact same sentiment was expressed by Jimmy Carter.  Jimmy Carter over in London -- he was speaking to the House of Lords.  They asked him about the presidential election, and he said, Well, listen, between Trump and Cruz, I, Jimmy Carter, would pick Donald Trump.

And he said, Why?  Because Donald Trump is malleable.  He has no fixed set of beliefs.  He says Cruz is not malleable.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  So let's imagine you win the presidency and you're going to hold the line on spending, and Congress will not stand with you for a balanced budget.  Congress will not support you on legislation to repeal and replace "Obama care."  Where does the standoff go?  Because we found ourselves at these moments, and Republicans ended up caving.  You're the president.  What would you do?

CRUZ:  Well, Sean, I don't cave.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ:  And we keep getting in these fights with Democrats who actually believe what they're saying.  Listen, Barack Obama -- I actually respect that Barack Obama's committed to his ideas.  I think his ideas are profoundly harmful to this country, have done enormous damage.  But he is committed.  Barack Obama will crawl over broken glass with a knife between his teeth.

And the reason we keep getting our lunch eaten is Republican leadership walks in, surrenders before they say good morning.  And that doesn't work.

HANNITY:  They did that on health care.

CRUZ:  Yes.

HANNITY:  They did that on executive amnesty.  And I think that's -- that goes back to my original point.  I think that's why we are where we are today, and it seems that it's coming down to a battle of insurgents.

And you're making the case that you're the insurgent that can get the job done as a conservative.  And I guess you would say that Donald Trump is probably more of a populist.

CRUZ:  Well, I would say it a little differently.  Donald Trump is adopting the rhetoric of a populist.  Donald Trump, like Hillary Clinton, is a rich New York liberal.

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  That's about the worst thing you can say to a Republican primary candidate.

CRUZ:  And Sean, thankfully, you're a rich New York conservative who's soon going to be a Southerner.

HANNITY:  Yes.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  You did hear that my own governor of New York doesn't -- I'm not a New Yorker.  I don't belong in New York because I'm pro-life, I believe in the traditional definition of marriage, and, yes, I'm very pro-2nd Amendment.  So I'm going to have to leave soon.  All right...

CRUZ:  But you know, when it comes to taking on Washington -- I mean, one of the amazing things Donald has said a number of times is he said, Listen, seven months ago, I, Donald Trump, was a member of the establishment.  No kidding!

(LAUGHTER)

CRUZ:  You know, last night on the debate stage, he said, Ted, I know politicians much better than you do.  That's right!  You have been paying off these people for 40 years.  And by the way -- I mean, look, the "gang of eight" -- five members of the amnesty "gang of eight" had collectively received over $50,000 from Donald Trump.  And he says, by the way, Well, listen, I'm a businessman.  I pay off everybody.

(LAUGHTER)

CRUZ:  Well, if you're worried about corruption in Washington, I'm not sure putting him in the White House is the best solution to that.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  Let me ask this.

CRUZ:  But let me make a quick point here, Sean.  OK, fine.  So he's paid off hundreds of thousands of dollars to all these liberal Democrats.  He helped put Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in power.  What was he doing that for?  It's only for one thing, putting money in his own pocket.  Did he ever once say to all of these candidates, Gosh, I care about immigration?

HANNITY:  Let me...

CRUZ:  You know, Gosh, I care about Supreme Court justices.  I care about life.  You know, his actions demonstrate that the only thing he's cared about is putting money in his bank account.

HANNITY:  Let me play devil's advocate.  He's laid out the case he's changed.  Like, for example, he tells the story about how he became pro- life.  You don't believe him.

CRUZ:  Listen, where he is in his heart, I don't know.  I don't know where he is in his heart.  I know for 60 years of his life, he described himself as very pro-choice, as supporting partial-birth abortion and as pro-choice in every respect.

And then when he decided to run for president as a Republican, suddenly, magically, he was pro-life.  Now, let's for a second give him the benefit of the doubt.  Let's assume he had some "road to Damascus" moment where he realized he was in the wrong.

You know, I'm curious, Sean.  Donald has also said he never once asked God for forgiveness for anything.  If someone is actually pro-life today, would you perhaps ask God for forgiveness for spending 60 years advocating for partial-birth abortion?

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  But here's an interesting question.  And by the way, for the record, I have to ask forgiveness every day because I get so angry at Obama.  But...

CRUZ:  Look, absolutely, and all of us are sinners.  Look, all of us, our faith is between us and God.  I'm just saying those statements, if he has nothing -- when he explains why he's never asked for forgiveness, he says, Well, I've never done anything wrong.  Well, OK.

HANNITY:  Well, let me...

CRUZ:  You know, the rest of us are fallen men and only have grace through God's love.  That's -- you know, that's the way I read it.

HANNITY:  But this next question's very important.  Then why is he doing so well?

CRUZ:  Because people are furious.  They're so frustrated with Washington. And I get that voting for Donald Trump for a lot of people is telling Washington go jump in a lake.  I get that.  It is.  And his rhetoric is loud and angry.

And for people that want to say -- want to scream at Washington, the loudest, angriest voice gives voice to that.  But he is telling us he is going to go back on what he's saying.  He's saying it over and over again.  
Donald Trump said, I can be a totally different person after I'm elected. I can be -- this is Donald speaking -- the most politically correct person on earth.

Let me tell you something, Sean.  The day after I'm elected president, I am the exact same person that I am today!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  We got to take a break.  We're in beautiful Nashville, Tennessee.  
We'll continue the entire hour and some questions from our audience as "Hannity" continues from Nashville straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

HANNITY:  And welcome back to beautiful Nashville, Tennessee, as we continue with the hour with Senator Ted Cruz, 2016 presidential candidate.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  we have a fun crowd here.  To me -- I know I've asked you this question and I've asked every candidate this question because to me, this is what the election is about.  We have 94.5 million Americans out of the labor force, a record.  We have 50 million Americans in poverty, 46 million Americans on food stamps.  Under Barack Obama, when he leaves office, he will accumulate more debt than ever president before him combined!

It is a daunting task the next president will have to set this economy on a right course.  How do you do it?

CRUZ:  Well, Sean, we know what doesn't work and we know what does work. What doesn't work is out of control spending and taxes and regulation.  It produces what we have now, and it always has, misery, stagnation and malaise.  It's cause and effect.

On the flip side, what does work is low taxes, low regulation, unchaining small businesses, which unleashes the free enterprise engine of this country.  And every time in history we've done that...

HANNITY:  Kennedy, Reagan.

CRUZ:  ... Calvin Coolidge.  The '20s, the '60s, the '80s, three times in a row, we've pursued tax reform and regulatory reform.  We took the burden of Washington off of small businesses, and we saw unbelievable economic growth.

Let's go back to 1980.  I've said many times I think 2016 is going to be an election very much like 1980.  That was the last time we had four consecutive years of less than 1 percent average growth, was 1978 to 1982 coming out of Jimmy Carter.

What did Reagan do?  Reagan came in and he passed tax reform.  He slashed the tax rates.  He simplified the tax code and regulatory reform.  He lifted the regulatory burdens from Washington.  And he also implemented sound money.  All of those together resulted in unbelievable economic growth.

Do you know what economic growth was in 1984, the fourth year of Reagan's presidency?

HANNITY:  About 11, 12 percent.

CRUZ:  7.2 but...

HANNITY:  OK.

CRUZ:  It was huge.

HANNITY:  Well, I can answer this question.  He did create 21 million new jobs, the longest period of peacetime economic growth in history up to that point.

CRUZ:  Yes.

HANNITY:  And America, which was in decline with double-digit interest rates, inflation, unemployment, all came down dramatically.

CRUZ:  And that impacts working men and women.  You know, you look at not only did people's standards of living go up, but you know, in the minority communities, do you know median income in the African-American community went up about $5,000 over the 8 years of the Reagan presidency?  You saw the Hispanic community median income going up significantly.

Under Barack Obama, you've seen stagnation.  The people who've been hurt have been the most vulnerable.  African-Americans have been hammered under Barack Obama!  Hispanics have been hammered under Barack Obama because, look, when you -- when you pound small businesses with "Obama care," with crushing taxes, with crushing regulations, it's not the CEOs who suffer the most.

Listen, if you're running a business, you can probably still pay your mortgage.  You can make ends meet.  It's harder, but you can do it.  The people who lose are the people who are laid off.  It's the teenagers.  It's the people who are just getting their first or second jobs.  They're the ones who are laid off.  They're the ones whose hours are reduced.  And that's who's getting hurt.

HANNITY:  When you add or factor in the importance of energy independence or the trillions of dollars that U.S. corporations -- you know, they parked all this money overseas.  They won't bring it back because of the high level of taxation, trillions of dollars.

If they're allowed to bring that back, wouldn't they build factories and manufacturing centers?  How many jobs in the oil industry and the gas industry can we have if we would just to get government off the back of that industry?

CRUZ:  Millions of high-paying jobs.  We have incredible energy resources.  We ought to pursue all of the above and we ought to develop everything we've got without Washington picking winners and losers, no favoritisms, no subsidies, no nothing.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ:  And let me stop on that for a second because that's actually a good illustration.  We were talking earlier in the show about taking on Washington and everyone talks a good game.

HANNITY:  By the way, they've told me, people in Washington, they don't like when you use the term "cartel."  Somebody said, He's calling us a bunch of drug dealers!

CRUZ:  Well...

(LAUGHTER)

HANNITY:  Oh, boy.  We just made news.  You guys happy back there?  OK.

CRUZ:  You know, if the machete fits...

(LAUGHTER)

HANNITY:  By the way, you know they're humorless up there.  They have no sense of humor.

CRUZ:  Yes, I've kind of noticed that.

HANNITY:  Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

CRUZ:  There is a reason I need a food taster in the members dining room.

(LAUGHTER)

CRUZ:  Although that's actually not true.  They aren't always humorless. I'll tell you a true story.  So at the State of the Union a couple of years ago, Lindsey Graham, who just said he thought I should be murdered...

HANNITY:  Good friend of yours.

CRUZ:  He and I were sitting next to each other at the State of the Union. And Louie Gohmert who you know Louie well, was coming up, was talking to us.  I love Louie.

HANNITY:  He's a friend.

CRUZ:  So Louie was talking to us, and they were getting ready to start, and Louie looked around, he didn't have a seat.  And this was -- this was right after -- you remember the Nelson Mandela funeral and the sort of strange guy that did sign language up front that wasn't affiliated with the funeral, it was just really a bizarre chapter?

Well, Louie's looking around and he couldn't find a seat.  I said, Louie, I'll tell you what.  Just go right up next to the podium where the president is and just start signing when he gives the State of the Union.

(LAUGHTER)

CRUZ:   And I said, You will go down in history.  It will be unforgettable! I said, You'll be incarcerated, but it'll be unforgettable!

(LAUGHTER)

CRUZ:  And Lindsey chimed in.  He said, But we'll send -- we'll bake you a cake with a file in it.

(LAUGHTER)

CRUZ:  But Louie did not take our advice, alas.  And it probably wasn't very good advice.

HANNITY:  So let me go back to these people because when you talk about 94.5 million people -- these are statistics -- 94.5 million people -- that's our family, that's our co-workers.  Those are real people, real lives, real people, real lives in poverty, 50 million.  Real people, real lives on food stamps.

How quickly can the job get done that they're back to work, out of poverty, off of food stamps and pursuing their dreams?

CRUZ:  It can turn around overnight.  And there are critical pieces to that.  Number one, let's take immigration.  Why does amnesty matter?  It matters for a lot of reasons, but one of the most important is 12 million people here illegally.  What that does is it takes away jobs from Americans and it drives down wages.

You know, I mentioned last night a Wall Street Journal article about what happened in Arizona when they put in really tough laws against illegal immigrants.  They saw a whole bunch of the illegal immigrants flee their states, say, Holy, cow, we're not welcome her.

And what happened was remarkable.  Number one, the government expenditures plummeted, hundreds of millions of dollars less in prison expenses and health care expenses and education expenses.  That means those dollars get to be spent on the citizens of Arizona instead.

But number two -- it was really striking, this article.  You had the owner of a company who was complaining, This is terrible.  I'm having to pay much higher wages.  I really don't like this.

That statement explains why the Washington cartel, why the Democrats and establishment Republicans like amnesty because the big business CEOs want cheap labor -- drive it down, drive it down.

But what's happened in the absence is they've seen wages going up.  Carpenters -- you know, their wages are going up.  Jobs are available. Suddenly, Americans are able to get jobs.  That impact is dramatic.

And let me tell you, as president, we know how to solve these problems. What's missing is the political will.  As president, I'm going to build a wall, triple the border patrol, enforce the immigration laws, including deportation.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  There are two reasons, I think, from my perspective why this wall needs to be built.  You describe perfectly why it hasn't been built. Democrats see a voting majority for generations to come, so they think, and Republicans catering to big business.  They want cheap labor.

But we also run the risk that ISIS will cross that border...

CRUZ:  Absolutely.

HANNITY:  ... al Qaeda will cross that border.

CRUZ:  Absolutely.

HANNITY:  And for those people that are out of work, well, now there's more competition for jobs so fewer Americans are getting them, and when they do get them, we're driving down wages.

CRUZ:  Well, and let me give you a great example.  After the debate last night, Donald Trump did a long interview.  I think it was on CNN -- where he was saying...

HANNITY:  Thanks a lot.  Go ahead.

(LAUGHTER)

CRUZ:  I don't know.  It was a terrible interview, so...

HANNITY:  Oh, OK.

CRUZ:  ... you should be happy with it.

HANNITY:  Oh, OK.

(LAUGHTER)

CRUZ:  But he said on that -- you know, it was revealed yesterday in the press that right now, his hotel in Florida brings in foreign workers and refuses to hire Americans.  And he was explaining that.  He got hit on the debate.  He was explaining that on CNN saying, Well, it's just impossible to find Americans who want to work in Palm Beach as waiters or bellhops.  He said, You just can't find qualified Americans.

Look, the press story was roughly 300 Americans applied for these jobs.  You know how many Donald hired?  Seventeen.  Now, you're telling me there are no Americans who want to be waiters?  Funny.  When I go down to TGI Fridays, I see a whole bunch of Americans who want to be waiters.  And I'm guessing the tips are better in Donald's fancy hotel, but -- but the beauty of it is from big business, if you bring in foreign workers, they're captive.  They can't leave.  You don't have to pay them as much.  They are trapped.

That's why big business likes this,. and so it's why I find it astonishing listening to Donald talk tough on immigration.  Look, the man faced a million-dollar court judgment for being part of a conspiracy to hire illegal aliens!  This is not someone who is going to follow through on what he's saying, and the difference is, I will and I always have!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  We will continue.  We're in beautiful Nashville, Tennessee.  We'll also get some audience questions in as this edition of "Hannity" continues straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY:  And welcome back to beautiful Nashville, Tennessee, as we continue.  We're on the road with 2016 presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz from the great state of Texas.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  I don't think there's an American that is not worried about homeland security.  One question that I don't think the media's ever asked Barack Obama that I would like answered.  Did he ever watch any of the ISIS beheading videos?

Now, some of you may not want to watch it, but I watched it because it's not only my job, but I wanted to -- this is evil in our time.  And protecting our homeland obviously is a top priority for any president.

How do we stop what is a modern-day evil?

CRUZ:  Look, Sean, you're exactly right.  ISIS is the face of evil.  And we have a president right now who is so hampered by left-wing political correctness that he refuses even to acknowledge what it is we're facing. As everyone knows, he will not even say the words "radical Islamic terrorism."

And he has become even worse.  President Obama has become an apologist for radical Islamic terrorism.  I remember -- I remember the National Prayer Breakfast the day after -- you remember the Jordanian pilot who was lit on fire by ISIS?  And the king of Jordan was scheduled to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast.  He had to fly back to Jordan when that happened.  President Obama spoke at the breakfast.

I was there.  President Obama gave a speech where he said, well, yes, ISIS is doing bad things.  Thank you, Mr. President, for acknowledging that.  But he said, you know what, Christians and Jews have done bad things, also. And he brought up --

HANNITY:  He talked about the terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  

CRUZ:  Yes.  

HANNITY:  But he can't say radical Islamic terrorism.  

CRUZ:  And he talked about the crusades and the inquisition.  The last time I checked those ended centuries ago.  And I don't think it's asking too much for the president of the United States to stay in the current millennium.  

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

CRUZ:  But the real problem with that, that is the argument that ISIS uses.  They justify, you know what, if Christians were murdering other people because they don't share their faith, you and I and all of us would speak out against it.  If Jews were murdering other people because they don't share their faith, we would speak out against it.  They're not.  

And if someone has a different faith than you, you don't have the right to go murder them.  You know, and if someone disrespects your faith, you know, you see in Europe where you draw a cartoon of Mohammed and a bunch of lunatics come and try to murder you.  You don't have a right to do that.

"The Book of Mormon," it's playing on Broadway.  I imagine if you're Mormon that's a pretty blasphemous and offensive comedy.  The last I checked Mitt Romney didn't come in with a suicide vest and blow up the people seeing it.  Faith also implies tolerance, and you do not have the right to murder others.  And this president when he claims this moral relativism, when following Paris and San Bernardino he gets up and gives a speech not about the murders who declared jihad on us but instead he lectures America on Islamophobia.  What nonsense.  

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  How does America defeat this modern-day evil?  

CRUZ:  You start with a president who has a clarity of vision and understands what it is.  As president, we will defeat radical Islamic terrorism.  We will set that object, and the commander in chief, as commander in chief I will set the objective, not that we are going to weaken, not that we are going to degrade, but that we are utterly and completely going to destroy ISIS.  

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  All right, for the constraints of time we have, it is very likely I think based on my now 30 years on radio and 20 years at the FOX News Channel, I think Hillary's going to be their nominee.  

CRUZ:  Yes.  

HANNITY:  Will she be hard to beat?  

CRUZ:  It depends on --

HANNITY:  Tell me how you really foal.  

CRUZ:  Actually, Sean, it depends on Tuesday.  It depends on Tuesday.  If Donald Trump is our nominee, Hillary will be very difficult to beat, because Donald can't -- he can't criticize her foreign policy because Donald described her as one of the greatest secretaries of state of all time.  And he supported her disastrous policy in Libya that resulted in handing that country over to radical Islamic terrorism.  He can't criticize here on domestic policy because he supported Hillary and Barack Obama on the Wall Street bailout.  He can't criticize her on Obamacare because he's advocating full on government control socialized medicine.  

And you look at, listen, the e-mail thing is bad, but it's not the remotely the biggest scandal facing Hillary.  The biggest scandal is this Clinton Foundation where this foundation by all appearances may have been a criminal enterprise where you have foreign governments, foreign heads of state, foreign companies writing six and seven figure checks to the Clintons while she is secretary of state.  It appears they were buying favors.  Any Republican running against her, that needs to be front and center.  

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  All right.  

CRUZ:  And if Donald is the nominee, she will laugh and turn it to him and say, but, Donald, you gave $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation.  What does he say to that?  

HANNITY:  You're asking me?  

(LAUGHTER)

CRUZ:  He can't.  

HANNITY:  We have to take a --

CRUZ:  And so if we nominate Donald we don't have a candidate to beat her. The difference is if I am the nominee we will beat Hillary and we will win the general election.  

HANNITY:  We are in Nashville, Tennessee.  We'll continue with Senator Ted Cruz.  When we come back, our audience will be asking the 2016 Republican candidate questions.  That's straight ahead tonight right here on "Hannity."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY:  Welcome to beautiful Nashville, Tennessee, as we continue with 2016 Republican presidential candidate, senator from the great state of Texas, Senator Ted Cruz with us.  I just was told by New York that Chris Christie has endorsed Donald Trump.  

(BOOS)

HANNITY:  Your reaction?  

CRUZ:  Well, listen.  This --

HANNITY:  Don't blame me.  I didn't make the news.  

CRUZ:  This decision is going to be made by the voters on Super Tuesday.  

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  OK.  Now, we have -- we have some people that want to ask you questions, senator.  Hi.  How are you?  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I'm very well.  

HANNITY:  What's your name?  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I'm Janine (ph) Floyd (ph).  

HANNITY:  Janine (ph), long time listeners, first time caller?  

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  First time caller, long time listener.  

HANNITY:  Did anyone ever tell you that you look like Reese Witherspoon?  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No.  

HANNITY:  You do.  OK, you have a question for the senator?  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.  We have seen many discussions through the debates concerning the issues, yet there has not been a lot about a candidate's character.  I think the American people want an honest candidate who exemplifies courage, loyalty, and the truth.  Why are you the best candidate with regards to moral integrity?  

HANNITY:  Great question.  

CRUZ:  Janine (ph), thank you very much for that question.  You know, it really does go right to the heart of it because we keep, you know, why are people frustrated with Washington?  Because politicians keep breaking their word to us.  They sound great on the trail but they don't do what they said.  And so it goes right to character.  

You know, I'm reminded of Warren Buffett has a phrase that he says when he's hiring people, he wants them brilliant, indefatigable, and loyal.  And if he can't have the third, he wants them lazy and stupid.  Look, if an elected official is not loyal, is not going to honor the commitments he makes, then everything else goes out the window.  And so the test I would suggest to apply to all of us is really the biblical test.  You shall know them by their fruits.  

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  Thank you very much.  You'd like to ask a question?  Hi.  What is your name?  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  My name is Julie.  

HANNITY:  Hi, Julie.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Senator, as long as I can remember my son has dreamed of serving our country with a military career.  If all goes well, he's going to be attending a service academy after he graduates in the spring, and of course we couldn't be prouder.  But I'd like to ask you, what assurances can you offer military moms and potential military moms like myself since it's likely that someday you may need to send our sons and daughters into harm's way?  

CRUZ:  Well, Julie, thank you for that question, and thank you for your son's commitment to service and your commitment to service.  You know, one of the most shameful aspects of the last seven years has been Barack Obama sending our fighting men and women into conflict with rules of engagement that effectively tie their arms behind their backs.  And it makes it impossible for them to win, impossible for them to defeat the enemy.  That is wrong, and I give you my solemn commitment, that will end on January, 2017.  

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  Let me point out, senator, we met our TV audience.  Young lady, you're going into the Air Force?  Maybe you want to get up and ask a question?  No?  You can stand up, though.  You're about to go into the Air Force Academy?  Or did you -- joining the air force.  

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  Go ahead.  Feel free.  Hi.  What is your name?  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I'm Stephanie Whitmore (ph).  

HANNITY:  Hi, Stephanie.  By the way, thank you for serving your country.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Thank you.  

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What advice would you give someone about to leave to the military?  

HANNITY:  Great question.  

CRUZ:  Well, it is a great question.  Let me say, Stephanie, thank you for your being to serve, for stepping up and defending this nation.  

(APPLAUSE)

CRUZ:  You know, there's a lot of talk about the one percent being the rich people on Wall Street but the real one percent are the real men and women that serve and risk everything for us.  

(APPLAUSE)

CRUZ:  And, you know, look, the advice I would give is simply maintain your diligence, your perseverance and keep your eye on why it is you're serving, that you are fighting for this country that we love with all of our hearts. You are fighting to keep the men and women gathered here safe.  And you are fighting so that your kids and my kids can have a brighter future going forward.  

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  Thank you, senator.  

All right, we'll continue more questions from our audience as we continue from beautiful Nashville, Tennessee.  It is "Hannity," and we'll continue with 2016 Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz straight ahead.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY:  Welcome back to "Hannity." We're with 2016 Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz and we are now taking audience questions.  And you, sir, what does that say on your hat?  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ted Cruz.  

HANNITY:  Ted Cruz, OK.  It looked like Green Bay Packer colors.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I used the like the Packers.  

HANNITY:  What is your name?  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My name is Marty (ph) Smith.  

HANNITY:  Welcome.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you.  I'm a marine veteran, Senator Cruz.

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  Semper fidelis.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you very much.  And welcome to the great state of Tennessee.  Welcome back, I should say.  I'm also a district captain for Convention of States Project.  My question with regards to the federal regulations, you know, regulations from our out of control federal bureaucracies, especially the EPA, are strangling the American economy, eliminating jobs, and robbing American citizens of our God-given liberties.  

CRUZ:  Yes.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  As president, what can you do and what will you do to get the federal government off of our backs?   

HANNITY:  Thank you, great question.  

CRUZ:  Marty (ph), terrific question.  Thank you for your service as a marine and thank you for your service fighting for Convention of the States.  

(APPLAUSE)

CRUZ:  You know, that question goes right to the heart of the challenge working men and women are facing.  My number one priority is economic growth, because economic growth is what is foundational to solving every other problem.

If you look at the regulations from Washington, they're strangling small business, they're killing jobs, they're driving down wages and making the American dream harder and harder to achieve.  This is where actually having a firm understanding of the constitutional authority of the president is very important.  If you look at what Barack Obama has done with executive power that is wrong, it's that he has intruded into the Article One law making authority of Congress.  Under the constitution, all legislative powers are vested in the Congress.  The president can't make the law, change the law, or ignore the law.  

However, under Article Two, all executive power is vested in one president of the United States.  And the regulatory state, this army of unelected bureaucrats that has grown up over the years, represents Congress's efforts to tie the executive power of the presidency.  

Here's the dynamic we have right now.  When Democrats are in office, regulations grow exponentially.  But when Republicans are in office, they still grow.  They just grow a little bit more slowly.  I had a cynical friend of mine suggest a bumper sticker, "Republicans, we waste less."  

(LAUGHTER)

CRUZ:  We have never had, Marty (ph), a president willing to use the full article two executive power of the presidency to go after the regulatory state, to rescind regulations.  I intend to rescind the waters of the United States regulations.  

(APPLAUSE)

CRUZ:  I intend to rescind the so called clean power regulations.  And intend to fire regulators who will not comply with getting out of the way and allowing economic growth.  I've joked.  I've said there is one government agency that I would be willing to expand, and that is our embassy in Iceland, because, you know, if you transfer about 10,000 regulators to Iceland, it will have a powerful effect focusing the mind of every other one there.  

And let me give you my word, Marty (ph).  When I leave office, it will not be the case that regulations continue to grow.  Rather I give you my solemn commitment that the body of federal regulations will have decreased significantly and human liberty will have increased in equal amounts.   

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  Sir, thank you very much.  We have to take one more break.  We'll come back.  We'll continue.  We're in Nashville, Tennessee.  We are with2016 Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz in Texas.  It's "Hannity" on the road.  Thanks for being with us.    

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY:  We're back in beautiful, Nashville, Tennessee, with 2016 presidential Republican candidate Texas Senator Ted Cruz.  

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  Senator, we have less than a minute, and this is such a big day Tuesday for everybody.  I wanted to give that minute to you to make your final pitch.  

CRUZ:  Listen, our country is in crisis.  I'm campaigning because I love my little girls, Caroline and Catherine.  I don't want to look them in the eyes 10, 20 years from now and say we stood idly by while we lost the greatest country in the history of the world, when we bankrupted this country, when we saw our constitutional liberties taken away.

Tuesday is a fundamental choice.  We have been burned so many times.  We don't need another deal maker.  We don't need another candidate who will cut deals with Democrats, who already has cut deals with Democrats.  We need a principled constitutional conservative who will do what he said, who will fight for the working men and women, who will lift the burdens.  We are going to repeal Obamacare and abolish the IRS.  Small businesses are going to explode.  Jobs are going to explode.  Young people are going to have two, three, four, five jobs coming out of school.  We can do it if we stand together on Tuesday.  

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  Nashville, thank you for being with us.  God bless you.

(APPLAUSE)

HANNITY:  Senator, thank you so much.  That is all the time we have left this evening.  As always, thank you for being with us.  We will see you back here on Monday.    

END

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