DALLAS (AP) — A decidedly rigid, even angry tone fueled Ted Cruz's rise from virtual unknown to senator-elect, helping him become a national tea party sensation by pledging to beat back government and choke off federal spending no matter what.
Now the first Hispanic to represent Texas in the Senate is vowing that unless President Barack Obama takes America in a new direction, he will fight the White House at every turn.
If Obama "means what he says on the campaign trail, if he is interested in working to bring people together to reduce the deficit and get people working, then I will work with him," Cruz said Tuesday in a victory speech. "But if he is re-elected and intends on continuing down this same path, then I will spend every waking moment to lead the fight to stop it."
Such pronouncements helped the 41-year-old former state solicitor general rise from the longest of long shots to become one of the few Hispanics elected to the Senate. At the start of the primary season, he was polling in the single digits, far behind Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a formidable rival who was backed by the mainstream GOP, had overseen the state Senate since 2003 and poured more than $20 million of his vast personal fortune into his campaign.
But Cruz successfully painted Dewhurst as an establishment moderate, wowing tea party activists and eventually cruising to a primary victory. Then on Tuesday he easily beat Democrat Paul Sadler.
Cruz has called for closing federal departments and "reforming while preserving entitlements" to reduce federal spending. But he also supports proposals that could expand the federal deficit, including building a wall the length of the Texas-Mexico border, tripling the size of the Border Patrol and cutting taxes for small-business owners.
Making the rounds on national talk shows Wednesday, Cruz was pressed about the likely need for both parties to compromise to avoid the "fiscal cliff" of deep spending cuts and tax increases that will kick in next year without a deal in Congress.
Cruz largely refused even to utter the word "compromise" and repeated that he'd be willing to work with anyone — but only to pass sweeping spending cuts.