GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz visits Baton Rouge supporters

In a revival-like atmosphere, Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz blasted the Obama administration Monday at a Baton Rouge hotel and vowed to dump key Democratic policies enacted during the past seven years.

Cruz said he would spend his first day in office undoing “illegal and unconstitutional” executive orders by President Barack Obama, order the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an investigation of Planned Parenthood and “rip to shreds” the recent agreement with Iran on nuclear weapons.

“Under no circumstances will Iran be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons,” he said.

Cruz said the U.S. Department of Education should be abolished, Common Core “ends today,” if he wins, and he made a passionate appeal on behalf of gun rights.

“We don’t stop the bad guys by taking away our guns,” he told reporters before his speech. “We stop the bad guys by using our guns.”

Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, is one of the frontrunners in the Iowa presidential nomination contest, the first of the 2016 political sweepstakes.

He is also bidding for support in Louisiana’s March 5 presidential primary, which comes four days after the Super Tuesday showdown so heavy with Southern states that it has been dubbed the SEC primary.

“There is a spirit of revival sweeping the nation,” Cruz said.

The Republican’s swing through Louisiana included a private, $1,000 per person lunch at Mansurs on the Boulevard, the public rally at the Marriott Hotel and a $2,000 per person VIP reception in New Orleans on Monday at the home of former GOP operative Mary Matalin, who is married to Democratic strategist James Carville.

Cruz said residents of Louisiana and other states “love God and we are sick and tired of what Obama is doing to this country.”

He urged backers to spend one minute a day in prayer so the nation can “pull back from this abyss.”

Cruz said that, in another first-day action if he is president, the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service will be told that “the persecution of religion ends today.”

The Republican, a tea party favorite, got a booming, standing-room-only reception in a hotel ballroom that officials said holds 750 people.

Joe Cannon, who lives in Mandeville, said after the 40-minute address that he backs Cruz after earlier favoring former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

“I’m swinging over,” Cannon said. “Cruz is the guy.”

Gene Guffey, of Baton Rouge, agreed. “He is an authentic conservative politician,” Guffey said.

Cruz is often blasted by Republicans and Democrats alike in Congress, in part because they call him a showman with a flair for getting attention more than results.

Critics also have accused him of tiptoeing around controversial comments by GOP rival Donald Trump in hopes of appealing to Trump backers if the New Yorker’s attention-getting presidential bid dies.

Cruz relishes being targeted.

He said the Washington, D.C., political scene is “fundamentally broken” and his bid appeals to those who agree.

“That is what this campaign is all about,” Cruz said. “Conservatives are coming together, and let me tell you, Washington is terrified.”

Cruz noted his ties to Louisiana.

He said his 81-year-old mother is a graduate of St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge.

Cruz said that, as a teenager fleeing Cuba in 1957, his father applied to three schools — LSU, the University of Texas and the University of Miami.

UT responded first and his father — now a traveling pastor — attended college in Austin.

Talking to reporters earlier, he ripped Obama’s stance on terrorism.

Even after attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, he said, Obama “plunged his head in the sand like an ostrich and refused to even acknowledge radical Islamic terrorism.”

Cruz told the crowd, “We will have a president willing to utter the words radical Islamic terrorism.”

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.

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