*Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from a Cruz spokeswoman.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz served a generous helping of red meat to GOP activists in New Hampshire on Saturday, taking time-worn jabs at his favorite targets with a few new wrinkles.
Speaking at the Granite State GOP's First in the Nation forum, Cruz largely ran through his stump speech while landing the kind of punchlines that have made him a Tea Party darling in the early-voting states.
"The Democratic version of this [candidate forum] is Hillary Clinton having a conversation with a Chipotle clerk," Cruz told his audience in Nashua, referring to the former secretary of state's surprise visit to the fast-food joint last week.
Later, he jabbed, "The way to defeat ISIS is not expanded Medicaid throughout Iraq." Cruz was ridiculing a suggestion by some U.S. officials that poverty is drawing people to the terrorist group.
And what about President Obama's absence at a solidarity march following the January rampage on a satirical magazine in Paris? "You know, if only the terrorists attacked a golf course, that might actually get the White House's attention," Cruz deadpanned, needling Obama for his weekend hobby. "Holy cow, this is serious."
Cruz also squeezed in a whack at The New York Times — high on his list of punching bags — and said it was "having apoplexy" over his recent remarks about the Second Amendment serving as a check on government tyranny.
It was all familiar territory for the 2016 presidential candidate, who capped two days of speeches at the summit by more than a dozen other White House hopefuls. During a question and answer session after Cruz's remarks, he promised to vote "unambiguously no" on Loretta Lynch, Obama's nominee for attorney general whom Cruz has clashed with over her support for Obama's executive action on immigration.
"In my view, when you have an attorney general nominee who looks at the United States Senate and says he or she will not enforce any constitutional limits whatsoever on the power of the president, there's no way in good conscience and consistent with your oath to vote to confirm such a nominee," said Cruz, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Cruz also took a question about his plan to defeat the Islamic State terrorist group if elected. In order to "completely and utterly destroy ISIS," Cruz said, the U.S. should wipe it out with air strikes and arm the Kurds. Citing the advice of senior U.S. military officials, Cruz said the Kurds should be joined by "perhaps some embedded U.S. special forces."
He sent somewhat of a mixed signal on who should make that call, first saying he believes from the outset any military conflict should begin with congressional approval or a declaration of war. Yet he then argued putting boots on the ground should not be "decided by a bunch of politicians in Washington posturing one way or another for political effect."
Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said the statements were not at odds.
"The President should come to Congress for approval of extended military action, making the case for how it will effectively defend the national security interests of the United States," Frazier said in a statement. "It is not up to the politicians to determine the strategy, that is for military brass and the commander in chief, but Congress should absolutely approve that plan of action. It is a key check and balance dictated by the Constitution."