(Opinion) — I didn’t want to get a nice Republican woman in trouble with her husband for letting me interview her. Honest I didn’t.
After listening to GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz address the Wyoming Republican state convention in Casper on Saturday, I wanted to get a sample of reactions to the speech and assessments of the Texas senator’s chances of winning his party’s nomination. The first two people I encountered were Mike and Mary Ann Pyatt of Mills.
They were coming out of the public viewing section at the convention, which was at least a mile from the podium where Cruz had stood. OK, I’m exaggerating, but it seemed that far away. Luckily, large video screens were available in the peanut gallery, which is also where I watched the action.
Remembering the crowded field of 17 Republican presidential hopefuls when the campaign began, I asked Mary Ann if Cruz had always been her top choice.
“I was kind of leaning for [Donald] Trump,” she said, which prompted a double take from her surprised husband.
“No! Trump?” Mike asked. “What did you see in him?”
“I was for [Dr. Ben] Carson first, and then I went over to Trump.”
“You liked Trump?” Mike said, still disbelieving. He had also initially favored Carson.
“I did,” his wife replied. “I don’t now.”
“Well, she fooled me,” he said.
Mary Ann said the more she saw of Trump, the more disenchanted she became. “I just didn’t like his behavior — his bullying and name-calling,” she said. “It just wore me down. He’s not the person I want to see in the White House.”
The Pyatts are now ardent supporters of Cruz. That matched the prevailing attitude at the convention — it was clearly ‘Cruz Country.’ He owned the room before he even reached the podium, and he ended the day with all 14 delegates who had been up for grabs.
Cruz threw enough red meat to his conservative base to last for several meals. He began by ticking off a trio of what he sees as abominations from President Barack Obama — mandating health insurance, killing the coal industry and requiring too many environmental protections at the expense of the energy industry. These are so-called Democratic “sins” that always play well to Republicans. If you’ll forgive me for continuing the food metaphor, the Wyoming delegates ate it up and asked for seconds.
Cruz was happy to accommodate them. He vowed to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency regulations he claimed have run rampant under Obama, and noted Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton “has promised she will finish the task and bankrupt the fossil fuels industry.”
Cruz offered another sure-fire crowd-pleaser that was met with cheers. “We’re going to pass a simple flat tax,” the candidate said. “In just a couple of years everyone is going to be able to fill out their taxes on a postcard, and when we do that we should abolish the IRS.”
There are few things in life that make conservatives as happy as the thought of shutting down the nation’s tax-collecting agency while also pledging to never raise taxes.
Where will the revenues come from to run the federal government? Don’t ask Cruz and his cohorts. They will probably be too busy building up the military that they claim Obama “decimated.”
Mike Pyatt said he likes that Cruz is “a strong constitutionalist” and a Christian. “He’s sound biblically, which to me is important,” he said. “He’s not running to be the preacher-in-chief. But I think it’s important for him to have strong underpinnings of the Bible.”
Mary Weber of Casper was wearing a Cruz sticker on her sweater. Like Mary Ann Pyatt, she initially liked Trump but was turned off because he kept “acting like a spoiled baby.”
Post-Trump she looked at all of the other candidates and “discovered [Cruz] stands for the values I believe in.” When I inquired about what those values are, Weber repeated what Cruz called his three main concerns: freedom, jobs and security.
Alan Matson of Casper said Carson was his top candidate, but he switched to Cruz after the neurosurgeon dropped out. “I’m 100 percent for Cruz,” he said.
Matson said he’s been watching Cruz’s career in the Senate and he’s impressed with what he’s observed. “People make a bunch of campaign promises, but Cruz is the only one I’ve ever seen try to live up to them,” he said. He particularly likes his candidate’s commitment to cutting the federal budget.
Celia Wallace of Jackson, an alternate delegate to the state convention, was the only person I talked to who said she’s still undecided about which presidential candidate to support.
“I was basically in [Ohio Gov. John] Kasich’s camp, but he doesn’t have as much hope of winning the nomination as I thought he did,” she said.
Why is Cruz so popular in Wyoming and the West? “I think most people here think of themselves as constitutional conservatives, and he purports to believe the same things,” she said.
Mike Pyatt said he knows a lot of Cruz’s colleagues in the Senate don’t like him, but added, “Voters didn’t send him to Washington to be popular.”
Wallace noticed something I also recognized during Cruz’s speech. The senator said he won’t make deals with Democrats and he won’t compromise his values, both sentiments greeted by vigorous applause.
“What people complain about Congress the most is that they don’t get anything done because they won’t compromise with each other,” she said. “That’s something he said he refuses to do.”
For those who haven’t been paying attention to the presidential race yet, it’s pretty obvious that GOP front-runner Trump isn’t a big fan of compromise either, because he always pouts and/or insults people when he doesn’t get his way.
Personally, I think the only way Trump or Cruz should get into the White House is with a guest pass. But I do respect the views of everyone, especially those who take the time to either serve as delegates or show up at political rallies and speeches. They care about the process, and not too many of us do these days.
Mike Pyatt said he’s very interested in seeing what happens at the GOP’s national convention in Cleveland, which might begin with neither Trump nor Cruz having enough delegates to win on the first ballot.
“I think Cruz has a shot at the nomination, but I don’t know how good it is,” Pyatt said.
His wife, Mary Ann, offered the couple’s final thoughts on the subject before leaving.
“I’m praying he does,” she said.
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