Ted Cruz made no speeches or any statements to the media Monday at a retail stop at Wagon Wheel Country Market and Deli in Bloomington. Instead, he made his way through the crowd, posing for photos and taking questions from as many attendees as possible.
“Excuse me, I’m here for the people tonight,” Cruz said, refusing a media question.
The event was one of many meet-and-greet type events Cruz is making on his campaign trail for the Indiana primary election Tuesday. Wagon Wheel filled up around 4 p.m., forcing people into a line that continued around the building for about a quarter mile.
As Cruz and his security vehicles approached the store the crowd began to chant his name but let out excited screams when Glenn Beck appeared first.
Beck showed up to endorse Cruz as a constitutional scholar. He said Cruz doesn’t just believe in the Constitution but fights to enforce it.
He gave an example of a conversation he and Cruz had about the right to try experimental drugs if severely sick. Beck said he expected Cruz to be against suicide and the right to die but was surprised when he got a different response.
“Cruz said the exact opposite: that ‘people have a right to their body,'” Beck said.
The talk show host also said he heard Bloomington was a “Bernie” town and that it was refreshing to hear. He said he believes Cruz and Sanders are the most honest candidates and the others are just playing the political party game.
“Ted and Bernie represent two different philosophies,” Beck said. “Ted constitutionalist, and Bernie socialist. That’s the debate we should be having, but we’re seeing parties play games.”
Before Cruz made his way inside the market he stopped just outside at a sample stand to try various pulled pork and beef samples. After a reporter recommended he try the Jamaican pepper steak, Cruz said he enjoyed it so much he took back everything negative he has said about the media because of the recommendation.
However, Cruz made no more remarks to media directly and instead spent several minutes listening and answering the questions and concerns of people around him. One woman apologized to him for Bloomington being a liberal community, but Cruz remained positive.
“That’s OK,” Cruz said. “That means us conservatives have hearty souls.”
Many people thanked Cruz for running and told him they had already voted for him in the primary, but not all in attendance were happy Cruz made a stop in Bloomington.
A group of about 40 Sanders and Trump supporters showed up with signs to speak out against Cruz’s visit.
Protestor Eric César Morales shouted, “Why do you hate us?” and “Raphael, say your real name,” to Cruz in reference to the Latino community. Morales said he believes Cruz assimilates to specific audiences that would not be pleased with what Morales claims is Cruz’s true name.
“This assimilative practice is very concerning for Latinos,” Morales said. “It asks, 'Could Cruz get a real audience if he didn’t distance himself from Cuban roots?'”
One Sanders supporter, Rob Depport, got into a debate about the separation of church and state while standing in line.
Depport expressed he is against Cruz because Cruz doesn’t respect the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state.
One woman who refused to give her name told him separation of church and state wasn’t even in the constitution. Another who also wished to remain anonymous asked him why religion is a part of so many government buildings and currency if separation was an important principle.
The debate ended when Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller stepped in to shake hands with all participants. Zoeller said he finds it important to campaign in Bloomington despite it being a largely liberal town because it is still one of the biggest cities in Indiana and is important during primary season, but he wasn’t at the event to ask for votes.
“Nobody elected me for attorney general to vote for someone,” Zoeller said. “Though I am on the record for voting for Cruz I don’t tell people what to do.”
Cruz was asked many political and personal questions from the audience and one about basketball.
After calling a basketball hoop a basketball ring last week, Cruz was asked where the jump shot was created. For the first time, Cruz paused and had to ask the man to clarify what he meant by "jump shot."
The crowd around him began to giggle at the man’s trick question with an answer of Wyoming. But Cruz recovered and claimed the real jump shot had to have been invented by Indiana’s own Larry Bird.
After the hourlong event, Cruz had made his way through the entire crowd that again chanted his name and cheered as he waved goodbye and took off for his next retail stop.
Supporter Tiffany Gardner said Cruz’s visit made her feel less alone in Bloomington and was surprised by how peacefully the event started. She stood in line with Spencer, Indiana, resident Beth Jones who said Cruz is exactly what America needs.
“He stands up to Republicans and Democrats,” she said. “And he has such Hoosier hospitality, too.”