DES MOINES, IA (KTRK) -- Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is planting a big flag in the middle of the state and daring other candidates to "Come And Take It."
The Republican presidential hopeful spent Thursday on his first campaign swing through his home state since announcing his candidacy for the presidency.
Supporters packed the stock yards in Fort Worth before the first-term U.S. Senator flew for a rally in Tyler. More than 1,000 people RSVP'd to attend the afternoon rally in east Texas. They began showing up two hours before the doors opened for the event.
"We need to bring Texas values back to this country," Cruz said outside his event in Tyler. "An appreciation for freedom. An appreciation for religious freedom. An appreciation for tolerance of diversity."
Mary Joe Cason was among the early arrivals who found a seat in the front row.
"He's a very conservative man," she said, "and he's a Christian man and he's what our country needs to get back on the right track."
Cruz backer Percy Andrus echoed Cason's opinions of the Houstonian, who is actively courting evangelicals to his base of supporters.
"He's a Christian," said Andrus, "so he's going to ask God, God's help when he makes decisions."
The campaign is calling Texas "Cruz Country."
With stops in Fort Worth, Tyler and Kingwood, the first-term Senator and Republican presidential candidate is looking to shore up support in his home state.
Even before he announced his candidacy in March during an event in Lynchburg, Virginia last March, Cruz led all would-be candidates by a large margin.
But on the day he spoke at the Iowa State Fair last month, a new poll showed Donald Trump leading Cruz in Texas. This is a critical state on Super Tuesday next spring -- holding nearly a quarter of all delegates up for grabs that day.
Cruz is polling third nationally, behind Trump and neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Cruz is running a campaign to get rid of what he calls "The Washington Cartel," potential GOP voters seemingly responding to a call for change by putting perceived outsiders or change agents atop their presidential choices for now. null
Senator Ted Cruz returns to Texas to campaign