SAN ANTONIO — Ted Cruz, seeking to reconnect with Texans after a brutal presidential race, told business leaders here Wednesday that the United States needs a "return to common sense."
Speaking at a chamber of commerce breakfast, the U.S. senator largely checked politics at the door as he delivered his first public speech in Texas since he caused an uproar at the Republican National Convention by not endorsing the party's presidential nominee, Donald Trump. Cruz instead kept the focus Wednesday on issues he has worked on in the Senate and his expectations for the next Congress — though he did allow at least one allusion to the wild race for the White House.
"It's a strange political season right now," he said. "I don't know what's going to happen nationally in the political season, but I do know as a country, we need a return to common sense. We need a return to the common-sense values that have built Texas, that have built San Antonio."
Cruz stopped Wednesday in the Alamo City as part of a weeklong tour of the state in his official capacity, geared toward getting back in touch with constituents. The trip is nonetheless coinciding with new speculation that he could face a credible primary challenger in 2018, with Trump supporters urging U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul of Austin to give it a shot.
Asked a few times as he left the breakfast how he was feeling about re-election, Cruz smiled and kept walking.
Inside the breakfast, Cruz received a warm reception as he revived many of the themes from his presidential campaign, arguing the values that have built Texas are jobs, freedom and security. On the third topic, he briefly dabbled in current events as he called for "clear-eyed leadership taking on the bad guys who want to kill us, taking on ISIS, taking on Iran."
"And by the way, taking on Iran doesn't mean sending an unmarked cargo plane with $400 million in foreign currency to pay ransom for American hostages," Cruz said, referring to the Obama administration's payment to the country around the time Tehran released four American hostages. "It would be difficult to come up with a more foolhardy policy."
"When you pay $400 million in ransom, to the surprise of no one, Iran has already captured two more hostages," Cruz added. "The federal government will start paying big chunks of money for American citizens being kidnapped — nobody should be surprised when the bad guys start kidnapping more and more citizens."
Cruz later summed it all up as a part of an ethos that goes beyond politics.
"None of this should be Republican versus Democrat. None of this should be liberal versus conservative. It should be common sense," he said. "In Texas, it's common sense."