On Wednesday afternoon United States Senator Ted Cruz addressed Larry Sabato’s Intro to American Politics class. Senator Cruz’s visit challenged the media’s negative impression of him and showed his capability of reaching out to voters outside of the conservative base. Cruz did not filibuster on Wednesday. Spending only two minutes on a prepared speech, he devoted nearly an hour to answering questions from students.
Cruz addressed an array of topics, including Obamacare, the minimum wage, and immigration. Cruz stressed that the Republican Party’s message on economic issues can win over young voters. The Senator highlighted the negative impact of President Obama’s policies on the youngest voters, calling Obamacare “a massive wealth transfer from young healthy people to everyone else.” Yet on health care reform, Cruz did not merely say what he was against, but also presented a vision of what kind of health care reform he was for. “We should reform healthcare so that we expand competition, we expand choice, and we empower patients and consumers to make health care decisions in consultation with their doctors without the government getting in the way,” he asserted.
While one might expect jeers, or even protests, from an outspoken conservative leader when he visits a left-leaning University, students were not only respectful of the Senator, but also were impressed by what he had to say. “He was very well prepared and well spoken on all the questions asked during our class period,” noted first-year Brian Leveque. First-year Owen Gibson remarked that Cruz was “so well spoken that even people who disagreed with his political philosophy were inclined to agree with him.”
“He appealed to the audience seemed a lot less radical than he’s been portrayed,” recalled Elizabeth Minneman, current Chairman of the College Republican Federation of Virginia and former Chairman of the College Republicans at UVa. Minneman added that even her left-leaning friends who were present conceded that he came across as reasonable and made persuasive arguments about the negative impact of Obamacare on young people.
“Senator Cruz came well-prepared to deliver his message, but did so in a way that engaged students,” said Kyle King, a fourth year Government major who was present for the event. “Coming in, I thought Cruz was more of a polarizing figure, but based on his speech, I think he has the potential to appeal to young voters and to independents.”
Kate Gaziano, recently elected Vice Chair of Campaigns for the College Republicans at UVA and the College Republican Federation of Virginia’s new Political Director was impressed by the attendance. “Larry joked that it was better than the attendance for his midterm,” she reflected. Gaziano also suggested that his approach to social issues, which often present a challenge for Republican outreach efforts, is one that conservatives can win on. “I was pleased to see him give a state’s rights and federalism answer to the gay marriage question, as I believe it is key that the Republican Party move in that direction.”
The first step of outreach is showing up. It seems so simple, yet it is something that Republicans have for years failed to do. As the times change, Republicans cannot fall back on their traditional base and expect this to suffice. They must reach out. They must grow the Party in order to save it. Young voters present an opportunity for Republicans to expand their message. They are not the “Obama zombies” that some conservatives think they are. Cuccinelli’s six point victory of 18-24 year olds in an election year that proved to be a perfect storm for Virginia Democrats proves that college students are ready to listen, if only conservatives will start showing up. Ted Cruz understands that. He not only showed up Wednesday; he delivered.
By Peter Finocchio, Staff Writer