Freshman Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas on Saturday chided the GOP over its 2012 electoral losses, saying "Republicans are and should be the party of the 47 percent," a clear allusion to the remarks caught on video by presidential candidate Mitt Romney during the campaign.
Cruz, speaking at the National Review Institute summit in Washington, was quick to say he wasn't criticizing Romney, but that the party lost a messaging battle with the electorate and that comment was just a symptom of the problem.
"To sum up what went wrong last election, I think it comes down to two words: 47 percent. Now by that I don't mean that ill-fated comment. I think Mitt Romney is a good man. He worked very very hard. He's a decent man of character. Anyone can have a slip of the tongue. What I mean by 47 percent is the narrative of the last election. The narrative of the last election was that 47 percent were dependent on government [and] we don't have to worry about them. … It buys into the premise that the economic pie is fixed and that it never changes," Cruz said.
Instead, Republicans should argue that the the economy is a "growing pie" and that Republicans need to shake the perception that they're for big business and rich people, Cruz said.
Cruz, who spoke without notes and sported black cowboy boots, drew two standing ovations from the conservative crowd. He also said Republicans in Congress should use two "leverage points" to foil President Obama--the continuing resolution that funds the government and the debt ceiling. Notably, he did not include the sequester, the across-the-board budget cuts that are due to take effect in March, as one of the political tools available to the party.
Cruz won his Senate seat by handily defeating Democrat Paul Sadler in November. The seat opened after Kay Bailey Hutchison retired. Cruz is already being looked to as a leading voice on immigration reform and has been touted as the new and changing face of the party, in the vein of Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.