Sen. Ted Cruz urged an influential conservative group in Iowa on Tuesday to keep fighting for educational and religious freedom but later declined to directly answer questions about his 2016 presidential ambitions.
"School choice is the civil rights issue of the 21st century," the Texas Republican told the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators in Des Moines, The Wall Street Journal
reports. He spoke to more than 500 parents and home-schooled students in a trip through Iowa that included addressing a GOP fundraiser in Mason City.
Iowa will hold the nation's first presidential caucuses for 2016. The visit was Cruz's fourth to the state in eight months.
Home-school advocates are an influential group in the state, the Journal reports. In 2011, Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul and former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain were among the GOP presidential hopefuls who addressed the group.
In addition, the Republicans who won Iowa's presidential caucuses did so with the help of home-schoolers: former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2008 and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania in 2012.
Cruz also sat for an interview with the Des Moines Register, the state's largest newspaper, The Hill
"There is no liberty more important than religious liberty," Cruz, who is backed by the tea party, told the group. "This nation was founded by men and women fleeing religious oppression and coming here seeking the freedom to seek out our lord God almighty with all of our hearts, minds and souls, free of the government getting in the way."
He also attacked the White House for a provision in Obamacare that Cruz charged infringes on religious freedom. Under the law, employers must cover contraception in their health plans but churches and certain other religious organizations are exempt from the requirement.
"We have never seen an administration with such hostility toward religious faith," Cruz said.
Afterward, however, the senator declined to specifically say whether the Iowa stops hinted at his 2016 aspirations.
"There's no doubt that Iowa is the center of the national debate of where the country should go, and I'm happy to be part of that debate to change the path we're on," Cruz told the Journal. "I'm traveling through the country to mobilize and energize the grass roots."
Both Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who also has visited Iowa several times since being mentioned as a likely 2016 nominee, will speak at a conference sponsored by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation in New Hampshire, the state that hosts the first presidential primary.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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