The "Freedom Summit" rally was the latest in a series of stops for
Cruz and Paul, who are hoping to win the favor of the party's right
wing for potential White House bids.
The event was co-hosted by Americans for Prosperity, a group funded
by the conservative billionaire Koch brothers and the single largest
advertiser in the 2014 election cycle so far. Among other speakers
was former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who ran for the
Republican nomination in 2008 and is seen as a potential 2016
Paul, a favorite among libertarians, cautioned Republicans against
"Some say we just need to dilute our message, let's just be a little
more like the Democrats," the Kentucky Republican told the audience.
"You think that's a good idea? Hogwash. It's exactly the wrong thing
to do. Our problem isn't that we are too bold. Our problem is that
we are too timid."
Among the leading moderate Republicans, New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie's 2016 prospects have been clouded by the "Bridgegate"
traffic scandal, while former Florida Governor Jeb Bush appears in
no hurry to join the race for the White House.
That has created an opportunity for others to try to make inroads in
New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state,
where White House candidates often preview their campaign messages.
"You want to know why people are frustrated out of their mind in
Washington? The biggest divide we have is not between Democrats and
Republicans," Cruz, a Texas Republican, said at the event. "It's
between entrenched politicians in both parties, and the American
While no politician has yet thrown a hat into the presidential ring,
Cruz and Paul have been preparing for possible campaigns for months,
undaunted by the Republican Party's reluctance to nominate a
conservative in recent presidential elections.
Over the weekend, Cruz headlined two rallies for activists and
voters with the New Hampshire Republican Party. Paul appeared at two
fundraisers with the state party and one for a non-profit group that
has funded ads against the re-election bid of the state's Democratic
senator, Jeanne Shaheen.
NO REAL FRONT-RUNNER
The fractured Republican field has no true front-runner 21 months
before the first primary votes of 2016, unlike among Democrats,
where former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds a large
lead over other possible contenders.
The RealClearPolitics average of national polls taken from March 6
to 30 showed no potential Republican candidate with more than 15
Paul, Cruz, Bush, Christie, Huckabee and Wisconsin Representative
Paul Ryan each averaged between 8 and 15 percent in the
RealClearPolitics sample. Polls this far ahead of elections are
rarely predictive, and national appeal does not necessarily
translate to primary-state popularity.
[to top of second column]
Cruz, a favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement, who has
feuded with more moderate Senate colleagues, and Paul, whose
libertarian leanings and non-interventionist foreign policy worry
traditionalist Republicans, would have to broaden their appeal
within the party to win the nomination, analysts said.
"There are not enough Tea Party people, not enough libertarian
people, not enough socially conservative people to win a Republican
nomination, by definition," said veteran Republican pollster Whit
Ayres, who runs polling for Florida Senator Marco Rubio, another
possible 2016 hopeful.
"Anyone who comes from one of those traditions must expand beyond
that tradition to win," Ayres said.
A leading Republican critic of National Security Agency
surveillance, Paul has appeared before a wide range of audiences,
looking to woo social conservatives and young people. In March, he
even spoke at the University of California at Berkeley, long known
as a liberal stronghold.
"Anybody got a cellphone? You're under surveillance," he said on
Saturday, holding one up. "Here's the thing: It's none of their damn
business what you do with your cellphone."
In office less than two years, Cruz has been a frequent presence in
early candidate-selection states like Iowa and South Carolina, and
has rebounded from criticism from fellow Republicans over his role
in the government shutdown last October.
The White House agreed on Friday with Cruz's call to deny a visa to
Iran's choice for U.N. ambassador because of the envoy's suspected
participation in a Muslim student group that seized the U.S. Embassy
in Tehran in 1979 and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.
Bush and Christie did join other potential Republican candidates at
a Las Vegas meeting in March with donor Sheldon Adelson, who spent
more than $100 million in the 2012 election cycle.
Bush, who says he will decide whether to run by the end of 2014, ran
into trouble with conservatives this week after characterizing
illegal immigration as an "act of love" by those who come to the
United States to provide for their families.
The first mention of Bush's name and his immigration comments drew
boos from the conservative crowd on Saturday.
(Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.