HOLLIS, N.H. (AP) — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said Wednesday that the "Washington establishment" he loves to rail against is abandoning Sen. Marco Rubio and coalescing behind GOP rival Donald Trump.
And Cruz said he welcomes that.
"Let me encourage other members of the establishment to keep supporting Donald Trump," Cruz told reporters before a rally in Hollis, New Hampshire. "Every time you are doing that it is telling conservatives all over the country where you stand and who stands with you."
Cruz and Trump are running a close race in Iowa, while polls show Trump with a significant lead in New Hampshire. The Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses are less than two weeks away with the New Hampshire primary coming eight days later on Feb. 9, so a strong performance in Iowa is very important for Cruz.
Cruz's comments came the day after Sarah Palin, who is not considered part of the GOP establishment, endorsed Trump at an event in Iowa and and Republican Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said he hoped Cruz would be defeated there because of his opposition to a renewable fuel standard that benefits corn growers. Trump supports the mandate.
Cruz made his remarks after being asked his reaction to former Sen. Bob Dole telling The New York Times he viewed Cruz as an extremist and that "nobody likes him."
Cruz did not react specifically to Dole's criticism, but the junior senator from Texas has embraced his outsider status in the race as he builds his campaign around tea party conservatives, evangelical Christians and others angry over what he describes as business as usual by the "Washington cartel."
Voters feel betrayed by Republicans willing to cut deals with Democrats and President Obama, Cruz said. Cruz said Washington insiders were moving to Trump because he has promised them he will cut deals, while Cruz has been less accommodating.
"The Washington establishment knows who's willing to keep the gravy train going," he said.
Cruz also claimed that his campaign raised $700,000 after the Branstad anti-endorsement, a sign Cruz said shows true conservatives are uniting behind his campaign.
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