In a little more than a year, Cruz has gone from a relatively unknown Houston attorney to one of the most talked about politicians in Washington. He's at the center of most of the important debates on Capitol Hill, even if he's not the most popular among those elected to serve alongside him. And he doesn't care.
"Reduce the enormous burden, the enormous uncertainty that comes from the alphabet soup from Washington," Cruz said.
And to a bipartisan crowd at the Greater Houston Partnership's State of the Senate address, he mentioned Obamacare and regulations and economic recovery no fewer than a dozen times each.
Hammering a message that does not make him popular among some of his elected brethren.
"How is it with your own party right now?? we asked.
"My focus is really not on DC, it's not on the party bosses. My focus is on 26 million Texans, because I've got a job to do. And that job is to fight for 26 million Texans," he said.
Cruz says the political divide that matters is not between Democrats and Republicans but between elected politicians and the voters who put them there.
"The leadership we need is from the American people. The answers in this country are not going to come from Washington," he said.
KTRK political analyst Dr. Richard Murray says Cruz is popular where it matters.
"With his colleagues, his stock is not high," Murray said. "At the grass roots, at the Tea Party level, he has rocketed to the front of the line. Current polls show him clearly the Tea Party favorite, not only in Texas but also in the nation."
And at the luncheon, he got two standing ovations from the audience, including other politicians appreciating his candor and his fight.
"He knew part of his audience disagreed with him. There were a lot of Democrats here, a lot of people who disagree. But he spoke his principle," former Houston City Council member Mark Goldberg said.
"We stood up and fought the battle. It was right for us to fight the battle. It's never wrong to do the right thing," U.S. Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) said.
That candor extended to our interview after the speech.
"So is ideology getting in the way then, not just yours but everybody's?" we asked him
"Unfortunately yes," he said.
Cruz says he's not giving up his fight to defund Obamacare, which he calls the single biggest job killer in America.
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