House Democrat ‘convinced’ Ted Cruz will run for president

Posted at 10:58 PM, Dec 12, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-12 22:58:29-05

(CNN) — A House Democrat who joined Republican Sen. Ted Cruz on a congressional delegation to a memorial service for Nelson Mandela in South Africa said he has “no doubt” the Texas conservative will run for president in 2016.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland said Cruz, considered a potential 2016 presidential candidate, tried to dodge the issue but admitted that he had plans to travel to states considered crucial in the early presidential nominating process.

“I asked him, was he going to New Hampshire, was he going to South Carolina, Iowa, and he said he’d probably be going to all of those places and he would be doing the things a presidential candidate would normally be doing.”

“But he wouldn’t say yes or no, but it was quite clear to me,” Cummings said. “I have no doubt about it.”

The delegation left early Monday morning to pay tribute to the iconic anti-apartheid leader at a service in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Cummings also said Cruz got an earful from the almost two dozen House Democrats, mostly members of the Congressional Black Caucus, on the 20-plus hour plane ride to South Africa, as members of the caucus saw it as an opportunity to tell Cruz how they really feel.

“He so happened to be sitting beside Gwen Moore, Congresswoman Moore, who is not shy, so he was sitting beside her for some 20 hours, but all throughout we had a pretty good time on the plane to talk,” he said, characterizing the atmosphere on the plane as fluid, with lawmakers talking and moving up and down the aisles.

Cummings said during the flight, he and the senator discussed their diverging opinions on President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

“He said Obamacare is not the proper way to go about this and I said, ‘Well, Senator, tell me what you would do. We need to go about fixing it.’ ”

Cruz, who clearly held the minority political philosophy on the plane, told CNN in a statement the conversation on the plane was “lively, spirited and productive.”

“We have terrific discussions among the delegations on a host of issues.”

Cruz joined the delegation despite intense criticism of Mandela from some of his supporters responding to a respectful tribute the Texas Republican issued after the leader died December 5.