DES MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad thinks Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is “a bright young guy” whom the governor will welcome to Iowa later this week.
But Branstad quickly added he’s been critical of both parties and their handling of the issues that led to the partial shutdown of the federal government this month.
“He’s just one of 100 members of the Senate,” Branstad said when asked about Cruz on Monday. “I think we should hear from all viewpoints, but as you’ve heard from me, I believe the leadership in this country is coming from the governors and from the states, not from Washington, D.C., and I don’t think one freshman senator can turn this all around. I think it’s really going to take executive leadership.”
Cruz is the keynote speaker at Friday’s Reagan Dinner in downtown Des Moines.
Republican Party of Iowa Chairman A.J. Spiker said “north of 550” tickets will be sold for the event, which has media credential requests from about 40 media outlets, “most of which are from out of state.”
“I think Ted Cruz is the perfect guy (to keynote the dinner),” Spiker said. “Earlier this year, we had Rand Paul in here after his historic filibuster, and now we have Ted Cruz after his historic filibuster.”
Cruz spoke on the Senate floor for 21 hours beginning the afternoon of Sept. 24, speaking about the need to defund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
The speech preceded this month’s 16-day shutdown of the federal government, which ended last week. He has become a divisive figure in the party, with some Republican moderates criticizing his tactics. But he’s also found support from Republicans who think he’s standing up for conservative principles.
The Iowa Democratic Party launched a petition earlier this month asking the governor to boycott the fundraiser.
“As of right now, we have over 550 signatures — but expect that number to continue to grow today and throughout the week,” party spokeswoman Christina Freundlich wrote in an e-mail.
The numbers didn’t seem to faze the governor, at least on Monday morning.
“I’m just going to say, ‘Welcome to Iowa. Come here often. Spend a lot of money. We appreciate your coming to our state as we do others.’ And I’ve always tried to be a good host and welcome everybody,” Branstad said.