Standing inside the bed of truck in front of several hundred supporters in Pahrump on Sunday, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz tried to differentiate himself from his chief rival Donald Trump, reiterating the main campaign points and calling for return of federal lands to the state of Nevada.
A U.S. Senator from Texas, Cruz spoke outside of Draft Pick Sports Bar, located at 1101 S. Highway 160. The visit came as part of his two-day campaign in Nevada ahead of the state’s Republican Caucus on Tuesday.
“Look, every one of us here wants to make America great again,” Cruz said, referring to Trump’s campaign slogan. “But the question is, do you understand the principles that made America great in the first place?” he asked the crowd.
Cruz called for the repeal of Obamacare, abolishment of the IRS and implementation of a flat tax “where everyone of us can fill out our income taxes on a postcard.” He also named economic growth his No.1 priority.
“You’ve got to have growth. With growth, we could do all of that, without growth, we can’t do any of it,” he said.
Cruz is among the six remaining candidates in the once-crowded Republican pool that has been shrinking since the Iowa caucus on Feb.1. Most recently, Jeb Bush bowed out of the race after the South Carolina primary where he failed to capture much-needed votes for his struggling campaign despite spending close to $13 million on campaign ads.
During his Pahrump speech, Cruz drew thunderous applause from the audience as he spoke about returning federally-owned lands to the people of Nevada.
“We need to take the 85 percent of the land in the state of Nevada (that is) owned by the federal government and transfer it back to the state and back to the people,” he said as the crowd of supporters roared and clapped.
The event was briefly interrupted by a heckler, who was escorted out by police after he interrupted Cruz’s speech several times shouting in defense of Obamacare.
Cruz continued his speech after the incident. He called for defending the right to privacy.
“How many of you all have cellphones?” he asked the crowd as people held their cellphones up in the air. “Let me ask you, please leave your cell phones on. I want to make sure Barack Obama hears every word we say today.”
At the press conference that was held prior to the event in the back room of Draft Picks, Cruz was flanked by Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who had previously endorsed him.
Cruz downplayed his third place in South Carolina where he lost evangelical voters to Donald Trump, saying that the momentum that his campaign is seeing nationwide continues to “grow, grow and grow.”
“What we are seeing every day is conservatives continue to unite behind our campaign,” he told a group of reporters.
“I think what voters here are looking for is a consistent conservative, someone who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and that is exactly why so many conservatives are uniting behind me,” he said.
In the Iowa caucus, Cruz’s victory broke the record with most voters ever for a single candidate on Feb.1, helping him to defeat real estate mogul Trump 28 to 24 percent. Cruz took a third place in New Hampshire with just below 12 percent of support, finishing after Donald Trump, who captured 35 percent of the vote and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who got almost 16 percent of the vote.
Following the conference, Cruz got out of the truck, posed for photos with supporters and gave autographs.
Elisa Wheeler of San Diego drove to Pahrump with her son James to see Cruz. She said she would stay in town one more day to help rally support for Cruz.
“I find him to be the only one who is 100 percent truthful, who could articulate his positions, who has the experience and the knowledge to be a president,” she said.
Cruz headed to Henderson later that day. On Monday, he stopped in Summerlin, Elko and Reno. He was in Carson City on Tuesday ahead of the caucus.
Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77