— -- Following the first Republican presidential debate, many GOP candidates hit the campaign trail in Iowa and New Hampshire, but Ted Cruz stopped south first, going on a bus tour as part of his campaign’s effort to give southern states more play.
“We're running a national campaign," said Cruz from his campaign bus. "You know, there are some folks in this race. They're all in in one state and hoping to get lucky. We are putting together a national grassroots campaign."
On Sunday, the Cruz campaign bus, emblazoned with the slogan, “This bus makes right turns only,” pulled into Pelham, Alabama where Cruz along with his wife Heidi and their two young daughters greeted nearly 800 people.
Alabama could become a more a pivotal state for presidential contenders this election cycle after officials decided earlier this year to move up the state's primary to Super Tuesday.
The move makes Alabama and seven other southern states part of what’s been dubbed the “SEC Primary,” which will be held just a few weeks after the early presidential nomination contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
“In my view, the SEC primary on Super Tuesday is going to play a huge role in insuring that the next Republican nominee for president is a true and a strong conservative which I believe is the way we win in November 2016,” Cruz said.
Cruz’s seven-day bus tour through the south began the day after the Republican debate. He will visit many of those states in the SEC primary including Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas.
“The crowds we're seeing. The energy. It's electric,” Cruz said.
Becky Todzia from Rainbow City, Ala., drove over an hour to see the senator.
“I’ve been following Ted for a long time,” she said. “We don’t get many presidential candidates that spend their time down here so he cared enough to come and he’s the first one to come.”