(Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). Photo/Getty Images )

Ted Cruz goes to Iowa – but not all conservatives agree he’s 2016 material

Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz might not be winning any national popularity contests anytime soon – he only received a 14 percent approval rating in a recent NBC News/WSJ poll taken during the government shutdown, which he strongly advocated.  But among some conservative circles, Cruz is enjoying rock-star status, and he will be in the spotlight headlining Republican events this weekend in Iowa, one of the crucial stomping grounds for 2016 hopefuls.

“When you have a Republican senator like Cruz come in and really stand on principle and fight for what Republicans believe in, it really fires up the party,” said Iowa Republican Party Chairman A.J. Spiker, according to Politico.  Cruz will give the keynote address at Iowa’s Republican party fall fundraiser, the Ronald Reagan Dinner.

On Saturday morning, Cruz will go pheasant hunting with Iowa Republican congressman Steve King.  King is the Tea Party legislators who was recently in the news for saying  that for every valedictorian DREAMer who has been brought to this country by his or her family, “…there’s another 100 out there who, they weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”  King also introduced a largely symbolic amendment in the House – which was approved – calling for the elimination of the Administration’s deferred deportation for DREAMers.

Cruz recently said, “I have enjoyed working with Congressman King on many issues of importance to Americans since arriving in Washington and am honored to have received his invitation to hunt and participate in the Defenders of Freedom fundraiser. ”   Cruz will give the keynote address at the fundraiser, which will take place in Le Mars, Iowa.

Though Cruz is only a freshman Senator, he has ascended rapidly into the national spotlight.  He was one of the most steadfast foes of Obamacare, and was one of the Republican Senators who voted against the bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill which was passed by his colleagues several months ago.  The Cuban-American senator, an Ivy League-educated former Solicitor General in Texas, recently spoke for 21-hours straight in the Senate floor in opposition to the health care law.  He has also called for abolishing the IRS and shutting down other government agencies.

The Texas Senator says he does not ‘work’ for the party establishment.

“People are saying mean things about me,” Cruz said in a rally in Houston. “Who cares? At the end of the day, I don’t work for the party bosses in Washington. I work for each and every one of you. What they don’t understand is that we’re standing here together. We’ve got a problem in Washington. They’re not listening to the American people.”

Some conservative Republicans, especially in Texas, are rallying behind Cruz.  “Texas likes a fighter,” said state Senator Dan Patrick to the New York Times.  “He’s only been there 10 months, but he’s proven to be a fighter. If our party doesn’t lead as a bold conservative party, then we will disappear as a party.”

But Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, says he thinks Cruz fires up only some conservative crowds – not all.

“I agree with Ted Cruz on 90 percent of the issues, but why does someone like me not like him?  Even within the conservative base, we want folks who are conservative but optimistic and can build winning coalitions,” says Aguilar.

“Ted Cruz is good on issues, but sadly he is a whiner, and in the end he can’t win in Iowa,” adds Aguilar, saying his bets are on Rand Paul when it comes to 2016.  “Rand Paul is optimistic – and at least he is talking to Latinos when it comes to immigration.”

Cruz, however, still has plenty of conservative fans.

“Everybody in the Tea Party is just infatuated with him,” said Alec Turner, an Iowa Republican.

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