Senator Ted Cruz on 'This Week'

Jonathan Karl goes on the trail in Iowa with the Tea Party favorite and potential 2016 candidate.
10:17 | 07/21/13

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Transcript for Senator Ted Cruz on 'This Week'
We want to know if you're going to run now. You know, the -- I got to admit, I'm focused on '06, and getting democrats elected. Then after the election, you know, we're going to then think about '08. Just a little dodge from freshman senator barack obama stumping in iowa more than two years before election day. We're more than three years before the election day, but the state where the first votes are cast has seen wannabes. And jon karl is there with one of them this week, the republican ted cruz of texas. It's an axiom of american politics no out of state senator ends up in iowa by accident. I was surprised as I took that non-stop from washington to des moines, I saw not one, but two potential presidential candidates making the trek. The flight from washington, d.C. To des moines, iowa was packed with republicans, including the party chairman, and ted cruz, and senator rand paul of kentucky. Not one, but two potential candidates for president. Congratulations, senator. Cruz has been in the senate a scant six and a half months. But he's already becoming a national figure. I'm holding a pistol grip. Firing defender of guns and traditional marriage. A critic of abortion and president obama. The next presidential election is nearly three and a half years ago, but his travel itinerary looks more like a presidential candidate than a freshman senator. Early primary states new hampshire, south carolina, two trips to iowa. Also, georgia, new york, and florida. What's going on here? Are you running for president? Jon, we are having a national debate about which direction the country should go. Understand the national debate. What I am doing now is trying to participate in that national debate. I understand that everyone likes to focus on the politics. Last year was your first election you've ever won. First time ever. Are you ready to run for president? You know, I'm not focused on the politics. Is it fair to say you're not? John, I've been in the senate all of seven months. Right. The last office I was elected to was student council. So this has been a bit of a whirlwind. You were born in canada. Could you -- are you even eligible to be president of the united states? My mother was born in delaware, I'm a u.S. Citizen by birth. I object. Cruz's confrontational style has alienated members of both parties. Senator cruz went over the line. Back in washington, we asked him about that. No secret, you've rubbed a lot of your colleagues the wrong way. Maybe even most of them, some would say. I would leave that to others to share their views. I can tell you my focus from day one has been on substance and policy. It has been on going to the committees on which I serve, on trying to do the jobs. I'm on the judiciary committee. We had hearings on guns. I believe ssionately in the second amendment right to keep and bear arms. And when the president used the tragic shooting in connecticut as an excuse not to go after violent criminals, not to stop crime, but instead to push an anti-gun agenda, I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't stand up and fight for the second amendment. Do you think he was exploiting the tragedy in newtown? I think he had a political agenda, which was to restrict the second amendment right to keep and bear arms of law-abiding citizens. They took advantage of that horrible, tragic shooting to push that agenda. And they didn't focus actually on solving the problem. You have republicans that wouldn't do anything with president obama. Obama's kind of like, you know, he's enemy number one, he's the villain. How do we get anywhere if you've got republicans that won't even talk about a deal with the president on something like the debt? I don't agree with the premise of that. I don't consider president obama enemy number one. I think he is someone who believes passionately in his principles. And I respect him for that. Now, I think -- you just said he was exploiting the newtown shooting. You used that word. It was an excuse to pass gun control, not protect kids. And you disagreed on how to do it. I think the policies he was advancing were wrong and dangerous. And the point that I was finishing, is I admire and respect him that he fights for his principles, but I think they are profoundly dangerous. You have been called a schoolyard bully, arrogant, a wacko bird. Look, I cannot control insults that others will choose to hurl. What I can control is that i have not and will not reciprocate. What do you think when jon stewart comes out and says you're a run of the mill fringe right -- take our country back from the socialist kenyan tea partier-type guy. I think he's a funny guy. He called me a dirty syrup guzzler. In reference to canada. Right. I must confess, I wasn't sure what that was. But I will tell you in response to that, I did send jon stewart a letter saying that I rarely guzzled syrup. But any time I did, it was texas syrup. And sent a bottle of texas syrup and invited him to a syrup festival in the state of texas. Did you hear back? We got a nice call back. You say the republicans need to stop being a bunch of squishes. Do you think that the problem with the republicans is they're too moderate? I think the biggest reason president obama got elected in 2008 is republicans lost their way. Not standing for principles. When you have a national debt larger than the entire economy, the democrats have driven that, but a whole lot of republicans were come police -- complicit. And I think americans are fed up with politicians in both parties digging us deeper into debt and discarding the constitution. We have seen poll after poll, 55% of americans say that they favor a path to citizenship for those that are here illegally. Are the majority of americans wrong about this? You know, jonathan, there is no stronger advocate of legal immigration in the u.S. Senate than I am. But you have 11 million people that are here undocumented immigrants, and you're saying that none of them should have a right, a path to become citizens. That's what you're saying. What I am saying is if you want to fix the problem, you got to focus where there is agreement. The most divisive element of the gang of eight bill is that it grants amnesty. It grants a path to citizenship for those that are here illegally. And you are opposed to that. Am I right? I'm asking you. I think a path to citizenship for those here illegally is profoundly unfair to the millions of legal immigrants who followed the rules. Is immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship dead? I do not believe the house of representatives will pass a path to citizenship. And I think -- it's not going to happen. And I think the white house knows that. So senator rubio has led the charge on this. I know that we must solve this problem once and for all or it will only get worse, and it will only get harder to solve. There's a captain of the gang of eight, it's marco rubio. Let me ask you, has he hurt his political chances? He was a possible front-runner in 2016. I don't know. Mar co rubio is a friend of mine, he's a good man. I like and respect him. And I think he proceeded in good faith. I think he believes in the gang of eight bill. But you think he's dead wrong. If it became law, we wouldn't have 11 million people here illegally, we'd have 20 or 30 million. He's the son of a cuban refugee who he cites as showing the american dream is real. He made 50 cents an hour. Paid his way through the university of texas, got a job -- cruz himself has a resume that looks like anything but an outsider, princeton graduate, harvard law degree, and the first hispanic to clerk for the chief justice of the supreme court. You've got an interesting background, argued a case before the supreme court at age 32. It's an extraordinary opportunity to stand before the u.S. Supreme court court. Takes your breath away. We didn't have a prayer. We were not going to win. I stood up and for 30 minutes, there was not a single friendly question, not a single neutral question. Scalia beat up on you? Scalia, ginsburg, the chief. It was 30 minutes of being pounded, it was a head of tuna being thrown to sharks. I will tell you, I have always like the fact that I sit in my skpaufs I look at a giant painting of me getting my tail whipped 9-0. It's good for instilling humility. That's what it looks like to lose. Looking ahead to 2016, he says republicans must nominate an unapologetic conservative. In other words, someone who's politics match his own. Nationally it looks tough, lost five out of the last six popular votes, presidential elections. 18 states and the district of columbia have gone democratic in all six of the last six presidential races. That's 242 electoral votes. If you look at last 40 years, a consistent pattern emerges. Any time republicans nominate a candidate for president who runs as a strong conservative, we win. And when we nominate a moderate who doesn't run as a conservative, we lose. Back in iowa, reporters continue to pepper cruz with questions about his presidential aspirations. Is he going to run? 160 words later, still no clear answer. Was that a no or yes?

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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