DRAPER — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz began his first visit to Utah as a presidential candidate Saturday with little focus on his campaign, but with strong vocal support for the re-election of Utah Sen. Mike Lee.
Cruz was joined by former GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina and talk show personality Glenn Beck in inviting supporters to attend caucus meetings next week.
"God bless the great state of Utah, and God bless Mike Lee," Cruz said in his initial remarks Saturday morning.
Cruz's appearance Saturday followed Utah events on Friday for other candidates, including Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump.
A federal judge on Friday also dismissed a Utah lawsuit that challenged Cruz's eligibility for the presidency based on the fact that he was born in Canada. The judge ruled the case did not have standing because Cruz's mother was a U.S. citizen at the time of his birth, making Cruz a U.S. citizen.
The Texas senator was greeted by eager crowds of several hundred at American Preparatory Academy in Draper as well as Provo High School.
Fiorina hailed Cruz as a "fearless" fighter seeking to decentralize the economic and political power concentrated in the hands of the elite.
"When you challenge the system, you do more than ruffle feathers," Fiorina said. "You make enemies. So yes, I'm proud of the enemies that Mike Lee and Ted Cruz have made."
Beck said Cruz and Lee are the first politicians to ever get his official endorsement. Beck referenced his conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and belief in the Book of Mormon as the basis for his conviction that the U.S. Constitution is divinely inspired.
That drew emphatic approval from both the Salt Lake County and Utah County crowds.
"It's our responsibility to stand for the Constitution," Beck said. "America doesn't need another weasel. We need somebody who understands the Constitution."
Cruz's promises to uphold religious liberties, among other principles, appealed to both audiences as well, including William and Chelsea Jackson, of Provo.
"I think it's very important to us that we're able to practice in a way that we feel is right and not have that impeded upon," William Jackson said. "I think that was some pretty resounding language."
"You want to believe they can do a good job," Chelsea Jackson said. "I feel like he has proven that to us."
Lee echoed Beck and Fiorina in trouncing political opponents of Cruz, saying other candidates favor a government that is "distant" from constituents and unresponsive to their needs.
"It's not time to settle, even though many people in Washington will tell you to do that," Lee said. "Don't settle for someone whose entire agenda can fit on a bumper sticker. Expect someone with a real agenda."
Cruz later told reporters that he sees "a spirit of union" in the Republican Party, despite division among GOP candidates. Part of that union comes from presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who announced Friday that he will vote for Cruz.
Trump questioned whether Romney is a Mormon at a Salt Lake rally Friday, which Cruz said was "sad" and "an attack that I think doesn't belong in Utah and it doesn't belong in politics."
The Texas senator said one of the issues in which he and Lee "bonded immediately" is in seeking a transfer of federal lands to state ownership.
"As president, I intend to lead the fight, as I have led the fight in the United States Senate, to transfer the lands back from the federal government to the states and to the people," he said. "This is an issue on which Donald Trump and I have a sharp disagreement."31 comments on this story
He said he believes that neither Kasich nor Trump could win over Hillary Clinton in the general election. On Friday, Kasich claimed that he was the only candidate that can trounce the former secretary of state, though he acknowledged that a brokered Republican convention was the only likely path forward.
"A vote for John Kasich is a vote for Donald Trump," Cruz said. "If you don't want to see Donald Trump as the nominee, if you don't want to hand the general election to Hillary Clinton and jeopardize the future of this country, the only way to beat Donald Trump is our campaign."