Ted Cruz packs hotel in Ames with supporters, guests

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks at a campaign rally at the Gateway Hotel and Conference Center in Ames on Jan. 30.

Travis Charlson

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz packed a hotel in Ames on Saturday morning, filling a conference center with supporters and high-profile guests who have endorsed him.

Even after what some called a rough debate for Cruz, his campaign appears to be hitting its stride just in time for the caucuses. Capacity crowds and celebrity endorsements along with Cruz’s high polling numbers have the Cruz campaign optimistic about its chances in Iowa on Monday night.

Students, members of the Ames community and media from around the country packed into to the Gateway Hotel and Conference Center, as Cruz and his supporters — including conservative radio host Glenn Beck — made one last push to rally support and urge voters to turn out on caucus night.

“Call your sister, your son, your next door neighbor, business partner or your college roommate,” Cruz said. “Tell them this election matters.”

Cruz is poised to do well in the Iowa caucus, having picked up endorsements from prevalent Iowans such as U.S. Rep. Steve King and Bob Vander Plaats, president of the social conservative group The Family Leader.

Beck, King and Vander Plaats all spoke at the rally, highlighting Cruz’s promise to do exactly what he says he is going to do if he gets elected president. 

“I’ve never endorsed anybody in my life,” Beck said. “I didn’t trust anybody … Ted has done everything that he said he would.”

Supporting a trustworthy candidate whose views completely align with his own, King said, is what he looks for when endorsing a presidential hopeful — and it’s something he doesn’t do lightly. 

“I haven’t made an endorsement for president in 8 years,” King said.

Cruz’s trustworthiness and religious faith have been themes in his campaign’s message, and a strong showing Monday night during the Republican caucus would reveal how effectively his message has stuck with conservative voters. 

While some have showed him ahead of Republican front-runner Donald Trump, most polls show him running second in Iowa.

The big question heading into the caucuses revolves around who is going to turn out, as there are plenty of caucusgoers who have yet to side with a candidate.  

“I’m still not completely sure,” said Steven Younkin, graduate student in civil engineering. “I liked what Cruz had to say, but I don’t agree with one candidate 100 percent.”

Foreign policy continues to be a relevant issue and has many voters concerned. Candidates’ experience and how they propose to deal with issues such as the Islamic State group will be key factors in who undecided voters line up with Monday night. 

“If you don’t understand who is your enemy, how are you going to defeat them?” said Kevin Cavallin, assistant scientist in biotechnology at Iowa State. “We want somebody who knows foreign policy.”

Along with Ames, Cruz had stops Saturday in Hubbard, Hamlin, Ida Grove and Sioux City. He will appear in Iowa City, Davenport and Des Moines on Sunday, and Jefferson and Marion on Monday before celebrating with supporters at the Ewell Center at the Iowa State Fairgrounds caucus night.