INDIANAPOLIS — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, made the case to Hoosier Republicans on Thursday that he's the only presidential candidate who can prevent Donald Trump from destroying their party and the nation.
"If Donald is our nominee, we lose and we lose by double-digits," Cruz said. "And if we're losing by double-digits it means we lose the Senate, it means we could lose the House, it means if Hillary (Clinton) is president we lose the Supreme Court for a generation, it means our kids are bearing trillions more in debt."
Speaking to some 800 Republicans at the state party's spring fundraising dinner, Cruz said all Americans will be watching Indiana May 3 to see if Hoosiers will stand and fight for liberty or whether they'll allow the current crisis to continue.
"Indiana's voice — Indiana's megaphone to the country — will decide which path this party goes down, which path this country goes down," he said.
Cruz pledged if Hoosiers elect him he will focus on jobs, freedom and security when he's in the White House by repealing Obamacare, reducing federal regulations halting illegal immigration, promoting school vouchers and boosting spending on the military.
"You know, it's easy to talk about making America great again. You can even print that on a baseball cap," Cruz said referring to Trump's campaign slogan.
"The real question is do you understand the principles and values that made America great in the first place."
Cruz's message — liberally sprinkled with references to the basketball film "Hoosiers — was warmly received by the party loyalists, many of whom ditched their dinner tables to line up and take "selfie" photographs with Cruz and Republican Gov. Mike Pence prior to their speeches.
Pence was unusually enthusiastic in his, promising to contrast the record of Indiana Republican leadership with the state's Democrats as he runs against John Gregg a second time trying to win a second term.
The governor refrained from endorsing Cruz, or any candidate, though he did appear happy to proclaim, "I am for anybody but Hillary and Bernie Sanders."
At the same time, Pence did not rule out possibly announcing his presidential choice prior to the state's primary election. Pence also reiterated his vow to support whoever wins the GOP nomination at the national convention in July.
"I am absolutely committed to the Republican nominee for president of the United States, and I'll be campaigning for our candidate, for our ticket all across the state of Indiana and anywhere else they want me this fall," Pence said.
The GOP fundraiser capped a day of Cruz events in the state's capital city, including a private meeting with Pence at the Governor's Residence. They then traveled together to the dinner.
Earlier, Cruz was mobbed by some 300 supporters as he ate a mid-afternoon pastrami sandwich on rye bread with brown mustard at a pre-announced visit to downtown's famous Shapiro's Delicatessen.
His Indianapolis campaign stops come one day after Trump, the Republican front-runner, rallied more than 3,000 supporters at the state fairgrounds.
The other remaining GOP candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, is set to hold several events in central Indiana next week.
None have yet announced plans to campaign in the Region, but all three are expected to intensify their Hoosier efforts following primary elections in five northeast states Tuesday since only Indiana votes May 3.