Another Cruz trip to Iowa stokes more 2016 speculation

Paul Steinhauser

CNN Political Editor

(CNN) — Ted Cruz is heading back to Iowa. Again.

The Republican Party of Iowa announced Monday that the freshman U.S. senator from Texas will headline its annual Ronald Reagan Commemorative Dinner, scheduled this year on October 25th at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.

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The dinner, held each autumn, is one of the largest fundraising events for the state party, and in the past has been keynoted by potential GOP presidential contenders.

For Cruz, who’s considered a possible 2016 White House contender, this trip will be his third this year to the state that traditionally kicks off the presidential primary and caucus calendar.

Last month the former solicitor general of Texas who was elected to the Senate last November with strong tea party and other grassroots conservative support, received positive reviews after speaking at “Pastors and Pews,” a closed-to-the-press meeting of about 800 pastors and their spouses in Des Moines put on by the American Renewal Project, a social conservative group. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who’s been very open about the possibility of a 2016 nomination bid, also addressed the crowd.

While in Iowa, Cruz also headlined the Iowa GOP’s summer picnic, and attended some smaller, separate meet-and-greets with Republicans.

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This Saturday Cruz will be back in Iowa, to address the 2013 Family Leadership Summit. The event’s being put on by the Family Leader, a group that’s influential with social conservatives in Iowa.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who battled eventual 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney deep into last year’s primary season, will also speak at the event, as will Donald Trump, who once again might be flirting with running for president.

In announcing Cruz as the headliner for the Reagan Dinner, Iowa GOP chairman A.J. Spiker said “Senator Cruz has quickly become nationally recognizable as someone who came to Washington to truly shake things up. Cruz has been a tremendous leader in holding the Obama administration accountable for the out of control debt and spending problems we face today.”

The dinner has given potential Republican presidential candidates a spotlight to showcase themselves. Then Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty headlined the dinner in 2009. He eventually went on to launch an unsuccessful bid for the 2012 nomination. The next year former Alaska Gov. and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin keynoted the dinner. At the time she was flirting with a possible White House run.

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While Cruz’s travel plans give the appearance of a man with 2016 on his mind, the senator’s advisers say Cruz is fully focused on his work in Congress.

Cruz press secretary Catherine Frazier recently told CNN that the senator’s “been receiving an overwhelming amount of requests to speak. The senator is willing and excited go anywhere where people want to listen to his vision and message for restoring our nation’s economic growth.”

As for this latest news, Frazier said that “the senator is honored to have received the invitation and looks forward to participating.”

While Paul has been very open about the possibility of running for president, Cruz has been less public with his remarks. Talking to reporters following his Iowa GOP event last month, Cruz further tamped down on talk of 2016, saying “we just had a presidential race a few months ago…as a voter I think it’s premature to decide who we should support.”

“Right now the Senate is the battlefield and I think if we focus on substance, the politics will take care of itself,” added Cruz.

Cruz’s eligibility to run for president has been subject to debate. He was born in Canada to a Cuban father and an American mother. Cruz addressed the question in a recent interview with ABC, saying that “my mother was born in Wilmington, Delaware. She is a U.S. citizen. So I am a U.S. citizen by birth.”