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Tea Party Patriots Stand Behind Sen. Ted Cruz For President


Here's a quick summary of last night's Republican debate.


Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio described the party frontrunner, Donald Trump, as a con artist who defrauded ordinary people.

INSKEEP: Fox News moderators made Trump watch videos in which the self-described straight talker repeatedly changed his views.

MONTAGNE: Trump called Cruz a liar, called Rubio little, and extolled the size of his own hands.

INSKEEP: John Kasich insisted he was the adult in the room. The many interested observers of all of this include Bill Pascoe, who works with the advocacy group Tea Party Patriots, which supports Ted Cruz. He's in our studios. Good morning, sir.

BILL PASCOE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: How good was that debate for your party?

PASCOE: I thought it was great debate. Americans are getting a chance to see several candidates who are vying for the office of leader of the free world. Let's face it. Things get rough at this point in the primary process. We started with 17 candidates; we're down to four serious candidates at this point. And the elbows are going to get sharp. I thought last night we saw an opportunity for both Sens. Cruz and Rubio to take on Donald Trump and raise some very serious questions. Frankly, I think they should have been raised several months ago before we got to the voting process, but I'm happy that they're being raised now.

INSKEEP: Now, we should mention that it was a pretty vulgar discussion, but you're saying - you're arguing it was a necessary discussion.

PASCOE: Well, I don't know that the vulgar part of the discussion was necessary. I think we could've done without that. I'm glad that debate started at 9 p.m. Eastern time, and I'm glad I wasn't on the West Coast where, you know, younger kids could have been watching that thing at 6 o'clock West Coast time. But let's - you know, we talked about some serious things last night. It seems to me that one of the things that's been going on for many months is that the critique against Donald Trump has been that he's inconsistent. And we saw some of that last night. We saw, in fact, as you just mentioned, the Fox News moderators talking about his flip-flops and making him watch video of his flip-flops. So the argument has been that he's inconsistent. I don't think that's the best argument to make against Donald Trump.

INSKEEP: What is?

PASCOE: The fact that he is, in fact, remarkably consistent. You just have to know what to look for. He's inconsistent if you look at his flip-flops on the issues, but he's remarkably consistent if you go to the motivation for his flip-flops. The motivation is always the same, and that is that at any given time on any given issue, Donald Trump can be counted on to take the position that serves his own interests at that time.

INSKEEP: You're arguing that he says what he thinks his supporters want to hear or that will advance his interests.

PASCOE: That's exactly right.

INSKEEP: Let me ask you, though, he's also been criticized for not being so conservative compared to someone like your man Ted Cruz.

PASCOE: That's right.

INSKEEP: His supporters don't seem to mind, and there's a lot of them. Doesn't that say something about the Republican Party? They're described as rejecting the so-called Republican establishment. Are they also rejecting the conservative movement of the last several years that Cruz wants to represent?

PASCOE: I think what's happening is that there are so many people who are so frustrated at what's been going on in Washington for so long. They're frustrated with Republican leaders as well. Remember, it was the tea party wave in 2010 that gave Republicans control of the House of Representatives in the biggest wave election in generations, and then in 2014 again, another big wave election. And yet, we continue to see spending grow. We continue to see money being borrowed. We continue to see the national debt going up. People are very frustrated that they've sent Republicans to Washington, they've put them in control, and they haven't seemed to be able to stop the growth of spending and borrowing. So with that frustration, Donald Trump comes along and taps into that anger. And it's not about the ideology. It's not about the conservative positions, whether they're conservative or not, it's about attitude. It's about a fighting attitude that says, follow me and we're going to break this logjam. I'm a leader; I'm a winner. We can make America great again. That's a very appealing message.

INSKEEP: He's also saying somebody like Ted Cruz is inflexible - has filibusters on the Senate floor, doesn't actually get things done. He says, I'm the guy who's going to get things done. It's a rejection of the conservative approach over the last several years in Congress.

PASCOE: I don't know that that's actually the best part of Trump's message because frankly, the one thing that you can say about Ted Cruz is that he's a man who - he ran on tea party values. He was elected on tea party values with tea party support. And since he got to the Senate three years ago, he has been a consistent, commonsense, courageous conservative. In fact, he has stood up. He was the guy who led the fight against amnesty. He led the fight against raising the national debt ceiling. He led the fight against the Iran nuclear deal. On everything that he made a campaign promise on, he's remained consistent. And that's what conservatives are responding to.

INSKEEP: One other thing - some top Republicans have said they will not vote for Donald Trump if he is nominated. They find him a danger to this republic, a danger to our democracy. Ted Cruz said on stage last night he would vote for Donald Trump if he's nominated. In about 30 seconds, would you vote for Donald Trump if it comes down to it?

PASCOE: I would have a very difficult time voting for Donald Trump. The choice for me, then - if he were to become the nominee of the party - is Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Either one of them - both of them - I think would do damage to the republic. One of them, in addition to doing damage to the republic, would do damage to the Republican Party and the conservative movement.

INSKEEP: Third-party choice for you - would you go there?

PASCOE: I've done it before.

INSKEEP: OK, Bill Pascoe, thanks very much.

PASCOE: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: He's a consultant associated with the Tea Party Patriots. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.