— -- After a breakout moment at the third Republican presidential debate, Sen. Ted Cruz ended his week with a bang -- literally -- by hunting pheasants with Rep. Steve King while in Iowa.
Trekking through Iowa cornstalks in a bright orange vest, the Texas senator pondered where he might be a year from now.
"I may be hunting in Iowa but it may be for swing votes up north in October of 2016,” Cruz joked with King. "Who knows. We may have a big enough lead that come October, we figure this [hunting] is the best thing we can do.”
Cruz seemed to revel in the momentum his campaign has seen, gloating in Des Moines on Saturday that his website’s server crashed during last week's primary debate.
“During the debate, so many people went to our website," he said at Growth and Opportunity Party organized by the Republican Party of Iowa. "Our website is built for speed and it crashed for the first time, down about two minutes. It’s a good problem to have. It had our IT folks angry that we crashed the website, but we had it up two minutes after."
Cruz’s big moment at the debate came when he criticized the CNBC moderators.
“The questions asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don't trust the media. This is not a cage match,” he said.
Those fiery remarks drew applause and gave Cruz one of the most talked about debate moments.
His campaign quickly capitalized, issuing a fundraising blitz that it said raised $1.1 million in the first 22 hours following the debate.
Cruz said he was taking some of his donors to a Dallas Cowboys game Sunday to treat them for hitting a target the finance team set. He also described the fundraising success his campaign has seen in blue cities like Seattle, Washington.
King, a powerful conservative in Iowa, hosted Cruz along with Rick Santorum and Gov. Bobby Jindal at his annual pheasant hunt in Akron, Iowa. All three are courting King’s endorsement.
As Cruz shot two pheasants with a shotgun like the one he said he has at home, he continued his attack on the current presidential debate model. Cruz argued that conservatives should be moderating Republican primary debates.
“I've suggested how about a Republican primary moderated by Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin. Now, I guarantee you would get incredible ratings for that,” Cruz said. “How about bringing in people like Glenn Beck. How about bringing in Hugh Hewitt and letting him actually ask real and substantive questions. There are a host of strong conservatives you could bring in that would engage and we're not talking about pussycat questions. We're not talking about easy questions. We're talking about questions that are relevant to what Republican primary voters are trying to decide.”
On Sunday, several Republican presidential campaigns will meet to come up with a list of suggestions for remaining debates. When asked if his campaign was participating, Cruz paused and said, “Time will tell.”
While Cruz’s week ended in Iowa, it began in his hometown of Houston where he jabbed at the man many once thought had the best chance to be a frontrunner in the Republican field: Jeb Bush. While Bush met with worried donors, across town Cruz unveiled the endorsement of Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the addition of several wealthy CEOs to his finance team.
Patrick called Cruz an “outsider” and perhaps hinted at the way the senator planned to model himself and his campaign to overcome the current frontrunners.
“People want someone to be bold,” Patrick said last Monday. “He is the outsider in this race but who understands the inside and how things work and how to achieve victory in Washington. Other people can be outsiders but we don’t really know that they’ll follow up and do what they say.”
After a week where his campaign found new interest from some voters, Cruz plans to keep the momentum going by doing what he says he has done all along.
“In every election cycle, there are candidates who shoot to the top and then fall down just as quickly," he said. "Our strategy has always been to build on a foundation of rock and not of sand. To play the long game based on fundamentals and deep support from the grassroots."