Six Memorable Moments From the Campaign Trail With Ted Cruz

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz pauses while addressing his supporters during a rally with his vice presidential running mate, Carly Fiorina, at the Grand Wayne Convention Center, April 28, 2016 in Fort Wayne, Ind.PlayRicky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images
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All told, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz campaigned for the presidency for more than 13 months.

As a campaign embed, I was along for the ride (literally) for nine months, to 27 states and hundreds of campaign stops, capturing his every move on camera and firing off questions as he made headlines along the way. During Cruz's time on the campaign trail, he never needed Secret Service, which meant his press corps and his supporters got extraordinary access.

Here are six of my most memorable moments on the trail with candidate Cruz.

1. From the First Bus Tour to the Last

ABC News covered the senator from his first bus tour criss-crossing southern states in the summer of 2015 to his last bus tour through Indiana. The campaign believed that several southern states that voted on March 1 would have served as a sort of firewall that would propel them to the nomination. When Trump swept some of those states, the campaign slogged on. After losses in the Northeast and polling that showed him behind in Indiana, Cruz's momentum stalled and he suspended his campaign.

Cruz and his staff prided themselves on campaigning harder than several of Cruz's rivals. In Iowa, for example, he squeezed 28 stops into six days and visited all 99 of Iowa's counties. The senator would make campaign stops after 10 p.m. at a gas station in Iowa or a diner in New Hampshire, and he seemed to revel in retail politics: shaking hands, praying with supporters, getting on his knees to fist-bump children and talking about his own daughters to voters.

Cruz's body man, Bruce Redden, would often whisper in the senator's ear that he needed to speed up or that they were running late and needed to go. As the crowds grew, the senator would often take a large selfie with remaining supporters. His staff often said the senator's desire to stay and shake every hand was a "good problem to have."

In addition to campaign posters and T-shirts, the senator signed everything from books to baseballs to school reports to someone's copy of the Communist manifesto.

Cruz never had to obtain Secret Service protection during the time he was campaigning, allowing both his supporters and the press to remain close behind him everywhere he went.

2. "Gone Huntin’"

On Halloween 2015, an orange-clad press corps trailed Cruz as he hunted pheasants with U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) Steve King. He was also hunting for King’s endorsement. Cruz ended up nabbing two birds and eventually King’s endorsement, which helped propel him to victory in the Iowa Caucuses.

I had never been hunting before and the senator seemed to delight in his press corps being out of its comfort zone. Upon seeing me in my orange hat and vest, he smiled and said, “You look like you’re going to get some birds.”

3. Family Life On The Trail

Cruz's campaign was a family affair. His mother, Eleanor, made get-out-the-vote calls to his supporters in Houston. His father, a pastor, traveled the country appealing to evangelical voters. Cruz's wife, Heidi, helped spearhead his fundraising efforts and later became one of his best surrogates. The couple's young daughters, Caroline and Catherine, who were 7- and 4-years-old when the campaign started, would often travel with their parents and help escort their dad out on stage.

After speaking to supporters at a restaurant inside a bowling alley and arcade in New Hampshire last fall, the senator squeezed in a round of mini-golf with his daughters.

The senator described being on the campaign bus with his daughters and playing video games with them to pass the time.

4. The Impressions

One of the most common things I heard from potential voters as they left his events was that they weren't expecting to laugh as much as they did. Of course, they expected Cruz to offer them policy positions in line with their beliefs, but not to quote "The Princess Bride," "The Good, The Bad And The Ugly" or "Jerry Maguire."

Cruz also loved to do an impression of a Texas farmer who was fed up with overregulation. Toward the end of his campaign, the impressions were less frequent but not entirely gone.

5. "Senator, Would You Arm the Cheese Curds?"

At a retail stop at an Italian market in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Cruz was in an exceptionally good mood. On the verge of a win in Wisconsin, he and his wife kissed as they sampled gelato and sorbet. Cruz, who has described cheese on cheese as his favorite food, tried some cheese too.

When he left the store for his campaign bus, I tossed him a fun question, asking whether he would arm the "cheese curds," playing on a standard line in his stump speech. Even though he tried to leave without answering any last minute questions from the press, the senator couldn't resist. He turned and laughed.

6. Unleashing on Trump

For months, Sen. Cruz sidestepped blatantly criticizing his main rival, Donald Trump. At first, he played nice, visiting him at Trump Tower in the summer of 2015 and saying he hoped their friendship would continue.

But eventually Cruz unloaded on the real estate mogul. Trump’s criticism of Cruz’s wife and later, his father seemed to impact Cruz on an emotional level that made it impossible for him to avoid addressing the insults.

In March 2016, Trump tweeted a threat to "spill the beans" on Heidi Cruz and later retweeted an unflattering image of of her. When I asked the senator if it made it harder to support Trump if he were the nominee, the senator looked straight into my camera and offered one of his most public displays of emotion on the trail.

During Cruz’s last day on the campaign trail, he did what we in the press corps had pushed him to do every day: say how he really feels about Donald Trump. Cruz’s words came after he had decided he would likely suspend his campaign and after Trump had tried to tie Rafael Cruz, the senator’s father, to John F. Kennedy’s assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

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