Reuters

(Reuters)

Cruz Crashes Bush Country in Donor Search

U.S. Senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz told a group of wealthy financiers in Dallas on Monday November 2  that the GOP has a clear path to victory in the 2016 presidential election by embracing issues championed by conservative voters many of whom stayed home in 2012 and handed president Obama the re-election, the FOX Business Network has learned.

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Cruz made those comments during a breakfast meeting hosted by prominent Dallas businessman Roy Bailey, a one-time supporter of former Texas governor Rick Perry’s aborted run for the Republican nomination. Bailey invited about two-dozen local businessmen, many of them former Perry supporters and some of them who were eying support for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s so-far uninspiring run for the 2016 GOP crown. Texas is considered a Bush strong hold since the Bush family has roots in the state and his brother, former President George W. Bush, was a Texas governor.

The upshot, according to people who attended: Cruz, who has a reputation as a conservative fire brand, was poised and professional during the three hour meeting, and could make a likely alternative for Perry supporters looking for a new candidate, and Bush supporters worried that their man doesn’t have the chops to win the nomination.

“Cruz impressed me right off the bat when he said ‘the only condition he will make in terms of questions is that they can’t be soft balls,” said one attendee who was leaning towards supporting Bush. “I liked what I heard.”

Cruz and his aides during the Dallas meeting provided data to support their contention that Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential race primarily because he wasn’t able to galvanize core conservative voters. Romney, like Bush, is considered a centrist conservative; as governor of Massachusetts, Romney created a health-care plan that many conservatives say President Obama used as a model for Obamacare.

“Cruz basically explained how the Democrats demographic advantage (of minority and young voters) won’t matter if the GOP gets conservatives to the vote as they did in the past,” an attendee told FOX Business.

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At another point during the meeting, Cruz said the House and Senate GOP leadership ignored his plan to block or at least better enforce President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal. According to an attendee, Cruz said that he wanted Congress to hold banks holding Iran’s assets accountable for making sure the country agreed to the terms of the deal. “He said he wanted to go the banks holding the Iranian assets and tell them they have a legal obligation not to release the money without full compliance,” this attendee said.

A Cruz spokeswoman wouldn’t comment on the meeting. In a telephone interview, Bailey told FOX Business: “I would say there were a lot of converts… His strong convictions and his willingness to fight hard for what he believes is the direction the country needs to take and to go up against conventional wisdom. I was really impressed with his tremendous grasp of the issues and understand both sides of the issues and pathways to succeed.”

Bailey, who led Perry’s finance team before the Texas governor exited the race in September, said he’s still undecided about whether to fully endorse Cruz, but he “is trying to help him because he’s my Senator.”

The meeting—and the reception Cruz received was important—because it shows that he could expand his donor base away from businessmen in south Texas, and from small donations from grass-roots conservatives, to areas of the country dominated by more mainstream candidates, such as Jeb Bush and Florida Senator Marco Rubio. While the event wasn’t specifically billed as a fundraiser, people who attended said Cruz received donations and commitments for donations of about $250,000.

Cruz, at least for the moment, is still considered a long shot to win the GOP 2016 nomination, polling well below front runners Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Rubio who has risen in some polls following what analysts consider was his strong performance in the latest GOP debate. While Bush has raised more than $128 million in total contributions, Cruz has raised just $65 million.

But Cruz has been gaining ground lately, the likely result of his own strong debate performance (He scored big points with GOP voters by attacking  moderators of CNBC’s Republican debate for allegedly biased questioning.) Editor’s note: Charlie Gasparino was previously employed by CNBC as an on-air reporter.

Several polls show him gaining ground both nationally and in the upcoming Iowa caucuses, pulling ahead of Bush who was initially considered the GOP front runner before a series of verbal miscues and relentless attacks by Trump caused the Bush’s poll numbers to fall.

Cruz, according to Republican insiders, is looking to pick up some support from contributors now having second thoughts about Bush, and his more centrist form of conservative politics where he supported immigration reform and Common Core education requirements that many on the right believe are giving too much power to the federal government in education policy.

“He’s a very likeable guy, and he had a great response from the meeting,” another attendee said.

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