The AT&T Conference Center on the UT Campus was packed to the gills Friday evening for the first keynote speaker of the 2013 Texas Tribune Festival: US Senator Ted Cruz. There was a line of more than 50 pissed-off donors, patrons, students, and at least one journalist waiting to get into the conference room in which Cruz was speaking to Tribune CEO/Editor-in-Chief, Evan Smith. In fact, Cruz couldn’t even make it into the room – he was stuck in Washington to, in his words, help the public acknowledge, “all of the Americans who are suffering because of Obamacare” and visited with Smith via video-camera.
The Affordable Care Act dominated the start of the conversation between Cruz and Smith, as it, and the possibility of a US government shutdown, has dominated the news over the past week. Cruz claimed that the government would only shut down if President Obama and Harry Reid want that to happen.
Evan Smith then turned the focus to local politics, and asked Cruz who he thought might win the 2014 Gubernatorial race. Cruz told Smith that he’s never met Wendy Davis, but knows Greg Abbott well. Cruz doesn’t officially endorse the Abbott campaign, but clearly thinks highly of the current Texas Attorney General.
Smith then asked Cruz about a recent poll that has the US Senator as the top choice for Republican primary voters to be their candidate for President in 2016. Would that mean he’d be running for President? Cruz replied that he didn’t put too much stock in polls, but neither confirmed nor denied a run for the White House.
The evening closed with perhaps the most interesting question of the night, which came from the audience after Smith’s time with Cruz was exhausted. An audience member asked what Cruz would do to “affirmatively fix our broken immigration system.“ Cruz said that the root of this issue underscores the disconnect between Washington and the rest of the country: “if you get outside of Washington, there is bipartisan agreement on a great many aspects of immigration.” But, Cruz noted that amnesty for undocumented immigrants is, essentially, a non-starter for many of the Republicans in Congress: “In my view, there is no chance the House of Representatives is going to pass a pathway to citizenship for those who are here illegally. There are not 218 votes.” The solution Cruz offered on immigration reform was for Senate Democrats and the White House to abandon, what he called, partisan objectives that have pervaded the immigration debate for years.