Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina arrived 45 minutes late to their Thursday rally in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The audience, however, had filled a stage area in the local convention center well before the 11 a.m. start time, and with a high ratio of children to adults.
Among the few latecomers was an older black woman who had arrived downtown by bus. She procured a stackable chair from a volunteer and dragged it stage-right, to where she could see Cruz’s platform without having to stand. A local news cameraman and reporter walked through the crowd and pulled out a white mother holding a toddler girl for a two-minute interview. The mother was there to “show that Indiana supports Ted Cruz,” she told the reporter, shifting the little girl over on her hip and speaking clearly.
The black woman, who sat not six feet away, tried to flag down the reporter to give her opinion, too, but the reporter and cameraman seemed not to see her as they walked to the back of the room again, “man on the street” interview accomplished.
“What’s the matter?” the seated woman called. “Do you only see people of a certain type?”
A local radio host with an avid following, Pat Miller, warmed up the crowd by announcing “Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina are in the building,” praising Cruz as “another Ronald Reagan,” at which the crowd clapped enthusiastically. Miller reminded the crowd that Indiana is crucial to Cruz’s attempt to deny Trump the Republican presidential nomination on the party’s first ballot. And the crowd cheered and whooped as if for a celebrity when Miller introduced the county’s pro-life leader, to give an opening prayer.
Then Carly Fiorina took the stage in a snappy, lace-overlaid, snug-fitting bold blue dress. She was giving the same speech she had the day before in Indianapolis when Cruz announced her as his proposed running mate—sharing her mother’s admonition that we’re all God’s gift to ourselves and each other, so we have to earn our success, and that’s why America is so great because it’s the best place possible for that pursuit; and my favorite line of hers: “Power concentrated is power abused.”
These she mixed up with breaking news tidbits, such as former Speaker of the House John Boehner’s revelation last night that he is “texting buddies” with Donald Trump. The crowd groaned and booed loudly at the mention of Boehner’s name. Things like this prove Trump and Hillary Clinton “will not fight the system,” Fiorina said. “They are the system. They will not fight for us.”
Then Cruz, his wife Heidi, and his little daughters Caroline and Catherine walked out from behind the curtains and up the steps to the low platform. They waved to the crowd, hugged around—the little girls milled about a little, as if not sure which way to turn first—then the ladies walked back towards the curtains.
Caroline, 8, wobbled at reaching the top of the five steps down, then stopped at the top and reached her arms out to her mother. Heidi turned and caught Caroline just as she leaped forward. Caroline smiled, hopped down, and practically skipped through the privacy curtains, her mother whisper-promising a bevy of little girls lined up at the rope that they’d be back after the speech.
The speech hit on Cruz’s current tagline: Jobs, freedom, and security. He had a friendly audience, the kind of people who cheer Cruz’s bread and butter topics: the Constitution, religious liberty, no penises in girls’ bathrooms, and eviscerating the regulatory state.
Republican base-type Hoosiers are more than a little angry at state standard-bearers of the Republican Party for what they see as a series of recent betrayals—most notably, perhaps, Gov. Mike Pence’s capitulation to LGBT activists in not only dropping religious liberty legislation already enacted in nearly half the states and at the federal level, but also pursuing special economic rights for such individuals in the guise of “anti-discrimination” laws. Pence also presided over replacing Common Core in Indiana with even worse curriculum mandates and has expanded the social welfare state with a public preschool pilot and more taxpayer-sponsored healthcare subsidies to able-bodied, childless adults.
Pence and company’s political betrayals—Indiana is a majority-Republican state at all legislative levels but has little economic growth or low tax rates to show for it—are a major reason some local Tea Party leaders have endorsed Trump. It’s perhaps lucky for Cruz, then, that Pence has held back from publicly endorsing him. Pence is in a tight re-election race of his own because of his disappointing record as governor, and internal polls show he can’t afford to alienate Trump voters.
Internal polls show, in an entirely related development, that Cruz is also fighting for his political life here in Indiana. If he loses, it will be fair to lay a good deal of blame on the Republican Party’s inability to fight for their constituents’ priorities.
To catch her bus back home to the apartment complex where she lives among rows of other low-income retirees, the older black woman left early, helping along another mother who was toting four hungry little kids. She had already voted in the primary in early voting, she said. She had just come to see Cruz today because she heard about it on the local news and was “curious.”
During Cruz’s speech, she had clapped boisterously when he said his fight was for “single mothers” and “truck drivers” and “college students” looking to pay the bills. She herself had raised eight children in Fort Wayne’s most troubled neighborhoods, and in her old age still worried about making ends meet.
If Trump wins, the older woman said, shaking her head soberly amid references to Old Testament judgment, it will be a sign that God “wants to drive us all to our knees.”