“Here’s Leviticus again,” King said, pointing the spoon at the audience. “Chew on that if you’re a Democrat.”
Seven people, including King, introduced Cruz at a rally that was scheduled to start at 9:15 p.m. Sunday. Attendees were then shown a video montage of Cruz on the trail. The program started right on time, but Cruz didn’t take the stage until 10:12.
Like most politicians, Cruz has surrogates and supporters introduce him at rallies and small meetings. As Monday’s caucuses approached, the list of people saying a few words before Cruz at large gatherings had grown. The remarks are typically much shorter and there are far fewer speakers in smaller venues, including town hall meetings at restaurants or libraries around the state. Cruz’s campaign said the number of people willing to stand up and speak for Cruz illustrate his support and excitement around the caucuses.
“We’re fired up and excited,” said Jason Miller, a Cruz spokesman. “We’re honored to have the support of so many influential, inspiring and motivating people who want to see Ted Cruz elected president.”
Cruz was enthusiastic about his support as well.
"What an incredible array of patriots have been standing up here tonight," Cruz said, naming each of them. He called speaker Michael Berry, a Houston conservative radio host, a "fearless conservative voice" whom he has been friends with for two decades. He called King a "conservative knife-fighter" who crawls over broken glass with the knife between his teeth. He praised Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; she said her husband "doesn't know what I'm doing tonight."
Cruz's surrogates are taking on various roles for him. Iowa evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats has become an attack dog against Donald Trump.
"Well, I’m sorry, but the sanctity of human life is not up for the art of the deal," Vander Plaats said in Ottumwa, Iowa, referencing the title of Trump's book, "The Art of the Deal." "God’s design for marriage is not up for the art of the deal. The U.S. Supreme Court trying to make law is not up for the art of the deal."
King is telling audiences about the fights Cruz has waged in Washington. Thomas urged Iowans to "see through the fog" of Trump and urged Iowans to "make America great," Trump's slogan, but with the "right candidate."
Cruz's wife, Heidi, is working to soften his image, telling stories about how her husband sings her showtunes, does math homework with their two daughters, stays up late talking with his mother and took her out for a birthday dinner at 11 p.m. after coming off the campaign trail.
All are trying to emphasize Cruz's values as someone who will take on Washington and fight for conservative principles.
Saturday night one of the warm-up acts was "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson, who had the audience blow duck calls to summon Donald Trump to the event in Sioux City. Cruz had challenged Trump to a "mano a mano" debate after the businessman said he wasn’t going to Thursday night’s Fox News debate. Trump didn’t show Saturday.
"Let's call old Donald ... and see if he will do the debate," the reality television star, clad in camouflage pants and a dark T-shirt, said as the bleat of duck calls rang out. "Men and women and children all blowing a duck call in unison."
Conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck also warmed up the crowd Saturday night, talking about Civil War, the TSA, the Constitution, Finland, the Clintons and more. He brought what he said was George Washington's copy of "Don Quixote." He urged Iowans to vote for Cruz.
"I love your flag," he said to the audience, unfurling the state's flag and reading its motto. Cruz came on stage about an hour and a half after the rally was scheduled to start.
At Cruz's first rally of the day on Saturday, at the Johnson County Fairgrounds near Iowa City, former Iowa secretary of state Matt Schultz, King, Heidi Cruz, Robertson and Beck spoke for nearly 70 minutes — and then, Beck introduced a video to introduce Cruz. A few minutes after the candidate took the stage, once the photos were snapped and Instagrammed, a slow trickle of voters began to leave.
Some were political tourists, who were auditing every candidate who came by. An aunt and niece, who declined to give their full names, slapped on their Bernie Sanders buttons when they spotted the doors. Other were likely voters who just got tired.
"I think he's great and he's getting the message out," said Warren Bigelow, a Cruz supporter from Iowa City. "But I have a family commitment, and I can't stand for more than an hour and a half. My back is killing me."
"I'm a political junkie," said Donald Fagen, who'd driven from rural Keokuk County to see Cruz. "I'm one of those guys who has Fox News on all day. It was just great to see Glenn Beck."
Here in Des Moines, Erin Nanke, a small business owner from Johnston, Iowa, walked out before Cruz finished speaking.
“We brought our three kids to experience this process, and it took a lot longer than we expected,” said Nanke, who likes Cruz but is still undecided about whom she will caucus for.
“We came to here to see him, so it would have been great if he came out earlier,” Nanke said. “But we understand there’s a lot of support for him.”
But David Kerr, a 58-year-old letter carrier from Des Moines, said he was thrilled to see so many conservatives on stage.
"I gotta be at work at 7:30, but I can give an extra hour for my country," he said as the rally ended a bit before 11 p.m. "Staying up late is no big deal."