DES MOINES - Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tx., gave the keynote address at a state Republican party fundraiser here this evening and told the crowd the country is "facing a new paradigm in politics and it is the paradigm of the rise of the grassroots" and "it has official Washington absolutely terrified."
"Only the people can turn us around. This new paradigm has been beta tested, unlike the Obamacare website," Cruz quipped to the crowd of about 600 at the Iowa GOP's Ronald Reagan dinner. "It was beta tested in 1980 with the Reagan revolution, and we pulled this country back from the brink. And if you look at this past year we have been saying over and over and over again the power of the grassroots."
Cruz - who has visited the first presidential caucus state three times in the last three months - ticked off victories he believes conservatives have won in Washington, D.C. as a "result of the grassroots rising up," including blocking legislation on gun control, immigration reform, and preventing American military intervention in
A potential 2016 presidential candidate, Cruz focused much of his speech on his continued opposition to the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. Last month, he spoke for 21 hours on the Senate floor to try and urge his colleagues to fund the government without funding the ACA. He also helped to shut down the government for 16 days in order to try and stop the funding of the health care law.
He said his latest battle, defeating the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, is just the next step, and while some may say he "accomplished nothing" in his unsuccessful effort, he thinks "collectively we accomplished a great deal" and conservatives' efforts "elevated the national debate" around the health care law. He added that Republicans were able to tell "millions" more Americans the law is a "disaster."
He laid the blame for the unsuccessful effort squarely on Senate Republicans saying "had we stood together I'm convinced the outcome of this fight would be very, very different."
"Just a few months ago all official Washington scoffed that the grassroots would rise up," Cruz said. "Official Washington scoffed that the House of Representatives would vote to fund the federal government and to defund Obamacare and the House of Representatives exercising a profile in courage stood strong and listened to the American people and led the fight. Now, we didn't accomplish our ultimate policy goal in this battle and we didn't because unfortunately a significant number of Senate Republicans chose not to unite and stand side by side with House Republicans."
He said the fight to kill the health care law will continue for him calling it an "ongoing effort" and he is now "more encouraged than ever" noting he is "confident in time the U.S. Senate will listen as well to the American people."
"We need to unify, we need to come together, and let me tell you growth and freedom are principals and ideals that unify the entire Republican Party," Cruz said, explaining that all aspects of the Republican Party can come together if "we get back to our core principals" although he quickly noted that "if you took every Washington strategist and dumped them in the ocean you know what you'd call it? A good start. "
Cruz was introduced by Iowa's Republican governor, Terry Branstad and although most of the speakers before him, including the party chair, noted the schism in the Republican party Branstad said he wanted to "help bring all Republicans together" and urged the party to follow Reagan's 11th commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.
"We need to be united as a party and we need to get our message across to the people of this great country," Branstad said, continuing on to praise the nation's Republican governors and said those in Washington are too busy "attacking others, blaming others, than leading."
The five term governor called Cruz a "bright up-and-comer."
In a press conference after the dinner, Cruz was asked about Branstad's comments and whether he had violated Reagan's 11th commandment when he blamed Senate Republicans. He answered that he "is a big believer that Republicans need to stand for principal."
"Throughout my remarks tonight and throughout my tenure in Washington I have been very careful not to speak ill of any senator Republican or Democrat, that's very different than not willing to speak the truth," Cruz said.
The Texas senator and tea party hero made no mention of his own possible presidential ambitions, but did say when it comes to the 2014 midterm elections "nothing, nothing, nothing matters more than an energized and active and vocal grassroots America."
"That's how you win elections," Cruz added.
The crowd was supportive of Cruz's efforts to fight the president's three year old health care plan. Cary Smith, a pharmacist, said she "didn't mind the government shutdown."
"I do think it was worth the effort," Smith told ABC News. "If you don't take a stand at some point, when will you do it? There's really not a good time for anything. You just have to jump in and try and get the job done."
Marcia Guffey said she attended the dinner because she "love(s)" Cruz, calling him her "hero."
"He knew [the effort to defund Obamacare] was going to be fruitless in that regard, because he knew he didn't have the votes, but he wanted to take a stand, he wanted to go on record this is our red line," Guffey said.
Iowans are used to getting up close to famous politicians and presidential hopefuls and at least one attendee said he likes Cruz, but he still needed to hear more.
"I just want to hear that politicians are on our side," Dan Gee said. "It's sort of like 'Star Trek,' when the Borg takes over, we send these young politicians to Washington and suddenly something happens, and they change, they become part of the Borg. So I am really excited for a guy like Ted Cruz. He gives me hope."
The vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and mayor of Minneapolis R.T. Rybak traveled to Des Moines to provide a counter argument to Cruz. In an interview with ABC News before the speech, he said "the Republicans are really happy that Ted Cruz is here because he's their ideological soul mate, and Democrats are happy because it reminds people what an ideologically extreme party the Republicans have become."
"Ted Cruz sees people's health care as a political issue, but to the single mom with a pre-existing condition to the kid with cancer who is worried about their experimental drugs … Obamacare is actually a good thing, and it will be for a generations," Rybak said. "Ted Cruz's extremism is going to mark Republicans as extremists for many years to come."
Cruz is in Des Moines for two days of events after doing a victory tour of sorts in Texas, where he was greeted by enthusiastic crowds. Saturday he will attend an important event that's become a must-stop for any possible presidential contender: Rep. Steve King's annual pheasant hunt in the northwest part of the state. After hunting the two will speak at a lunch fundraiser for King's congressional campaign.