Orlando International Airport was busy this week as Republican presidential candidates flew into Orlando to speak at the Republican Party of Florida’s Sunshine Summit.
I attended a Ted Cruz rally at Faith Assembly Church off Curry Ford Road, where the Texas senator unveiled his immigration plan.
The location, a 1,200-seat venue that was under half full, was a clear appeal to the evangelical crowd that Cruz claims as his. The crowd warmer invoked radio personality Rush Limbaugh, who once said Cruz was a “thoroughbred conservative,” a signal to the GOP’s tea party faction that is wary of the “establishment wing” symbolized by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
In a Ted Cruz administration the trains would run on time because he took the stage at 2:45 p.m., exactly when he was scheduled to do so, to chants of “Cruz! Cruz! Cruz!”
His talk was filled not with dog-whistle warnings but full-blown sirens that stoked the fears of the mostly non Hispanic white and elderly audience.
“From 1968 to 1988, California was a GOP bulwark with a series of Republican governors. After 1988, California has never again voted Republican,” Cruz, said implying that the 1987 immigration reform that made citizens of about 3 million undocumented immigrants had turned the state blue.
Cruz blamed Congress for the development, not mentioning that immigration reform was one of President Ronald Reagan’s signature pieces of legislation. He was wrong on the facts as well. Republican George Deukmejian was re-elected California governor when immigration reform was enacted. He was followed by Republican Pete Wilson, who governed from 1991 to 1999. Arnold Schwarzenegger was the last Republican governor of California, elected in 2003 and again in 2007. Facts didn’t get in Cruz’s way.