MILWAUKEE — A rare debate flub by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz Tuesday night sparked a boomlet of social media jokes about Texas presidential candidates, but the White House hopeful's most notable moment came when discussing how he would handle a banking crisis as the country's chief executive.
Asked toward the end of the fourth GOP presidential debate about the banking crisis of 2008, and the notion of the government treating some banks as "too big to fail," Cruz said he would let them.
"Senator, I really want to be really clear. Are you saying, sir, that if Bank of America were on the brink, you would let it go?" Fox Business News moderator Neil Cavuto asked.
"Yes," Cruz answered. Ohio Gov. John Kasich jumped on Cruz's response, arguing that depositors should be protected, but Cruz held firm in his most spirited exchange of a debate in which he seemed to neither gain nor lose significant ground.
A potential showdown with Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio — emerging with Cruz as growing favorites to be the last men standing in the GOP field — never developed. The Milwaukee debate lacked the drama of the most recent CNBC debate, and Rubio earned the biggest audience response.
Cruz, a former Princeton debate champ, had one misstep that set Democrats atwittering about echoes of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry's presidential run four years ago.
Offering details of his tax and budgets pans, Cruz said he has identified $500 billion in specific budget cuts, including axing whole federal agencies.
"Five major agencies that I would eliminate: the IRS, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, and H.U.D.," Cruz said. Instead of repeating Commerce, Cruz meant to list the Department of Education.
It was no "oops" moment, but a bit of Texas deja vu of Perry disastrously taking a stab at the same line as a presidential candidate four years ago.
“I would do away with the Education, Commerce and, let’s see,” Perry said at a Michigan debate in 2011. “I can’t. The third one I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”
A spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee instantly pounced.
"Ted Cruz will eliminate the Department of Commerce more than any other GOP candidate," tweeted DNC spokeswoman Holly Shulman. "Not just once but twice!!"
Overall, Cruz sparingly interjected himself into a debate focused on economic issues. Some political observers projected that the FBN decision to relegate Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to the undercard debate would give Cruz more room to monopolize and court the evangelical vote.
That moment could come in a later debate that does not cater to a business-centric audience. Instead, Cruz focused repeatedly on promises to abolish the IRS.
However, as predicted, Cruz segued into discussing immigration, a point on which Cruz can isolate Rubio from the conservative base, yet he did not mention his Florida rival on Tuesday.
"Now, I want to go back to the discussion we had a minute ago, because, you know, what was said was right: the Democrats are laughing because if Republicans join Democrats as the party of amnesty, we will lose," Cruz said.