OKLAHOMA CITY — Hundreds of Oklahoma conservatives gave Texas Republican Ted Cruz a warm welcome, as his campaign bus stopped in the northeast part of the city Thursday.
The campaign stop was originally supposed to be a smaller affair, a “Boots and BBQ Lunch” at the COHBA Events Center, but an over-capacity crowd forced the action outside.
"I think it shows the strength of who he is and what he stands for," said Rodney Barnes, a voter who says Cruz is near the top of his list. "I think he represents the values of Oklahomans. Our morals, our ethics, and our conservative beliefs."
Cruz may be counting on support from Oklahoma's conservative base to help him win the primary. Polls show that he is trailing several candidates.
"Oklahoma is going to play a critical role in the Republican presidential primary," said Cruz. "Our role together is to ensure that the next Republican nominee for president is a real and genuine conservative."
That's how Cruz is branding himself. He made an entrance on a red and black bus, advertising "courageous conservatives."
In his wide-ranging speech, Cruz said he will work to repeal the Affordable Care Act and Common Core, rebuild the military, secure the border, and "rip up" the controversial nuclear deal with Iran. If he were president, Cruz said he would rescind executive orders signed by President Obama and order a federal investigation into Planned Parenthood.
“At the end of the day, our focus is on uniting conservatives and getting us to stand together to turn this country around,” Cruz told reporters before his speech. "Our focus is building a grassroots army. We're seeing incredible energy from the ground, from the grassroots. We're seeing an incredible leadership team that's coming together in Oklahoma."
The Senator's speech seemed to be well-received. Several times, the crowd punctuated Cruz's points with applause, interjecting with affirmations that his priorities were theirs as well.
"He's conservative," said Judy, a Cruz supporter. "All of our counties were red. We don't like the liberal stuff going on. He's a shoo-in I think for Oklahomans I think."
John Barnett came to the event not entirely sure who he would support. After hearing Cruz speak, there was no doubt in his mind who he'd be voting for.
"His values are a lot like the values of Oklahomans," Barnett said. "We haven't had a single county that voted for Obama in either of the two elections that Obama ran for. This man that was here today, he speaks our language."