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Cruz Urges Iowans: Caucus With Us; If We Stand Together We Will Win

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene in Des Moines, Iowa. Renee, I wish you could see this scene. You can probably hear it. I'm at a coffee shop, and there may be 40 people drinking coffee, watching me sit here at this microphone in this room and many people out in the other room. I mean, it's a packed house here (laughter).

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Although I don't - well, a pretty common sight for me, I guess, watching you at the mic while I (laughter) drink coffee.

GREENE: That's right. We can see each other on video. That's right.

MONTAGNE: It does sound pretty packed.

GREENE: Yeah, it's pretty packed. And you know what else packed? Our sort of office at a hotel last night because a lot of our colleagues are here as well, and they've been driving all over the state at rallies ahead of the caucuses tonight. And last night, Republican Ted Cruz was speaking at the Iowa State Fairgrounds here in Des Moines, and NPR's Sarah McCammon was there.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Ted Cruz is ready for the Iowa caucuses. Like a kid before Christmas, he's been counting down the days and hours at his recent campaign stops.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TED CRUZ: One hundred and seventy-seven hours - that's how long we've got until the Iowa caucus.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CRUZ: One hundred and forty-nine hours.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CRUZ: We're 28 hours away from the Iowa caucuses.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CRUZ: We are now 20 hours and 30 minutes away from the Iowa caucuses.

MCCAMMON: But it might've been better for Cruz if the caucuses had already come and gone. After surging ahead of billionaire Donald Trump in Iowa polls in December, his lead shrank and then evaporated. Cruz has been working to get it back and campaigning hard for the important conservative Christian vote.

(SOUNDBITE OR ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CRUZ: If we care about life and marriage and religious liberty, we need to ask - don't tell me you're pro-life. Show me. When have you stood up and fought to defend the right to life?

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAMMON: At the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines last night, Cruz reflected on the campaign. Without mentioning his name, Cruz took a swipe at his biggest rival in Iowa, Donald Trump. Cruz observed that the race has been anything but boring.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CRUZ: I will say that. Some of the candidates in this race - it is many things, but it ain't dull. Next cycle, I think Lady Gaga is running.

MCCAMMON: Cruz repeated his standard stump speech, telling Iowans that he believes the country is headed in the wrong direction.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CRUZ: That the stakes have never been higher, that we are standing at the edge of a cliff.

MCCAMMON: And if you agree, Cruz said, come out and caucus.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CRUZ: Stand with us. Caucus for us. If we stand together, we will win.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAMMON: Cruz's chances of winning depend largely on whether or not Iowa's robust network of evangelical Christians will turn out to vote and support him over Donald Trump. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Des Moines. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.