Editor's note: This report has been updated to include comments from former state Sen. Wendy Davis.
POCAHONTAS, Iowa — Ted Cruz on Thursday reached back to the 2014 election cycle to argue abortion is a losing issue for Democrats, holding up his state's last gubernatorial race as prime evidence.
Asked during a question-and-answer session with voters about how Republicans could run effectively on social issues in states beyond Iowa, home to the first nominating contest, Cruz insisted the GOP has nothing to be ashamed of. On abortion, for example, he argued Democrats, including presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, are out of sync with the overwhelming majority of voters.
“You know who doesn’t think abortion is a winning issue for Democrats? Democrats,” Cruz said. “Name the last presidential election in which Democrats made front and center their unmitigated enthusiastic support for abortion on demand.”
As exhibit A, Cruz cited the Democratic primary in the Texas governor’s race two years back. Former state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth ultimately won the nomination but lost more than 20 counties to a virtually unknown Democrat named Ray Madrigal who had nowhere near the money or popularity she had.
Speaking to Iowans on Thursday, Cruz noted how many of the counties were in the Rio Grande Valley. The region, he said, “is overwhelmingly Democratic, it is overwhelming Hispanic, it is significantly low-income.”
“What that means is that thousands upon thousands of Hispanic Democrats came into the polls – by definition, they knew nothing about her opponent. He had no money, not a single radio ad or TV ad, nothing,” Cruz said. “But these Democrats voting in the Democratic primary presumably looked at the ballot and said, ‘Davis, Davis — that’s the late-term abortion person. No, I’m not for that!’”
Despite their partisan differences, Cruz and Davis do have one thing in common: Both have delivered high-profile filibusters, Cruz against the Affordable Care Act in 2013 and Davis against Texas abortion restrictions that same year. Even on that count, though, Cruz drew a sharp contrast with Davis.
"She gave a filibuster. I know a little thing about giving a filibuster," Cruz said. "Unlike Wendy Davis, I didn’t wear pink tennis shoes while I was doing it. And Wendy Davis, unlike me, was lionized by the press. The press said, 'Oh, what a glorious hero. Her standing in favor of late-term abortions. Yay, yay, yay. We love it.'"
Cruz’s stop in Pocahontas was the first of four planned Thursday across the northern half of Iowa. He is currently completing a six-day, 28-county bus tour of Iowa that is set to wrap up Saturday.
Davis told The Texas Tribune on Thursday that Cruz was “out of sync with American voters,” citing a recent Associated Press-Gfk poll that showed American support for abortion at a two-year high since a Nov. 27 shooting rampage at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs.
“Clearly, he’s taking the position he’s taking, trying to appeal to Evangelicals in the primary, but the problem that he and other Republicans are going to have, whoever becomes the Republican nominee, is how and whether they can move to the middle,” said Davis, who campaigned last month in Iowa for Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton.
Davis added: “I think, even in the Republican Party, especially as you get into a broader swath of the United States, you’re going to see less and less appeal for the extremism of a Ted Cruz or a Donald Trump."
Edgar Walters contributed to this report.