In addition to Donald Trump's predictably bizarre stop in Bentonville yesterday, Ted Cruz was in Little Rock yesterday evening and Marco Rubio made a late-night appearance in Rogers (Rubio and Cruz both reportedly stuck around for church services this morning, while Trump hopped on a plane bearing his name and flew off into the great lie and lie).
Times photographer Brian Chilson was on hand for the Cruz event. Check out a slideshow of some of his shots below:
Cruz, who had special guest Glenn Beck on hand, said the election would come down to "jobs, freedom and security," and ran through a Cruzish stump speech.
Beck said that "our country is at a crossroads." No surprise — Beck's desperate housewife routine is predicated on a road that is always crossed, an apocalypse always just around the corner. Beck said that people feel like they're powerless and no one is listening to them. He said that Trump is "a progressive who's been a liberal his whole life" but "people feel powerless — they want somebody to come in and slap everybody around." Fair enough! Beck said that we were about to descend into totalitarian fascism if we don't retain the inherent American goodness. For just a minute, by the way, Beck acknowledged that he himself had been guilty of losing a little goodness, of helping (at least as I understood him) to sow the seeds of Trumpism.
BECK: Americans didn't defeat the British, God defeated the British. Or something.
Beck brought a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory prop and asked the crowd "what is our golden ticket?" The crowd yelled back, "Ted Cruz!" Wrong answer, turns out. Beck responded, "our golden ticket is the Constitution." It's super funny that the crowd answered wrong — apparently Cruz's success depends on the same free-floating cult of personality that Beck derided in Trump.
Beck also said that God beat the British in the Revolutionary War, "we just helped Him along." Honestly of all the conflicts in the history of the world, that particular fight seems like an odd one for the divine finger to tip the scales in but, hey, He works in mysterious ways.
Cruz told the media, with the Southern twang turned up a bit higher, that "Arkansas is a critically important state." He said that "nationally, roughly 65 percent of Republicans" are against Trump. (This line is so strange, since 80 percent of GOP voters reject Cruz.) Cruz said that it's no surprise that the Washington establishment backs Marco Rubio because he, Cruz, is the true outsider. "I'm not interested in compromising," he said.
Cruz told the crowd that every time he listens to Beck he learns something. "Glenn is an educator," he said. Possibly inspired by Jason Rapert, in the audience, Cruz put on a cartoonish preacher voice for his speech. Cruz said "our country is in crisis," blah blah blah. He wants to repeal Obamacare, abolish the IRS, and some other stuff. He's tired of dealmakers. Cruz, loathed by everyone who has ever worked with him, will not make deals.
Cruz spent a lot of time on immigration. He said that illegal immigrants were "undocumented Democrats" and hit Rubio on the Gang of Eight immigration reform bill (Rubio was the key Republican pushing for the bill but has tried to renounce it once it proved hideously unpopular with the base). Meanwhile, Cruz said that Trump hired foreign people. The crowd booed. "He brought in foreigners," Cruz said. What could be worse than hiring human beings born in other countries to work?
The LOLs just keep coming for me when I watch Cruz's hammy stage whispers and obviously phony preaching style. The Ivy League Jimmy Swaggart routine reads like an SNL skit. The breathy drama, the choreographed theatricality, delivering precisely the same talking points with precisely the same dramatic pauses that he offered up hours before — but delivered with all of the faux-fervor of a middle school forensics speech, overtaken with emotive desperation, for our freedoms are slipping away! My stars! Get this man a fainting couch.
But of course I'm not the target audience and some people love it! Right around 20 percent of the GOP electorate, it seems. You can re-live all the amazing moments on YouTube:
More presidential-candidate fun in the Natural State: Hillary Clinton will be in Pine Bluff this afternoon and Marco Rubio will be in Conway on Monday.