This post has been updated.
HENNIKER, N.H. — For months, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has tried to poach libertarian-leaning voters here away from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Now, with Paul's exit from the race, Cruz has even more of an opening to make inroads with supporters of the Kentucky Republican.
Cruz is running as a tea-party darling and evangelical Christian, constituencies that helped propel him to victory in the Iowa caucuses. But he is also attempting to expand that base, particularly with libertarian-leaning supporters. Here in New Hampshire, Cruz speaks of limited government, gun rights and privacy.
"But part of the reason we’re more competitive in New Hampshire than a typical conservative is we’ve got enough support on the libertarian side that it backfills. That’s fairly unusual," Cruz told reporters on his plane as it traveled from a rally in Greenville, S.C., to Manchester, N.H. "Right now we’re second. It will be interesting to see how Iowa impacts New Hampshire."
The Texas Republican has also been reminding Granite Staters that they voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980 in an attempt to sway libertarian-leaning supporters. At a town hall meeting here, Cruz told a skeptical crowd that the state chose Reagan despite the "media saying this guy is too far to the right, he’s too conservative," and far behind in the polls.
The Iowa caucus winner said he believes that his strength lies in the breadth of supporters his message can attract.
The outreach to supporters of Paul and his father, Ron, has been meticulous. Cruz dispatched aides earlier this year to meet with activists here, telling them that Paul was floundering and Cruz viable and flush with cash. The Texas Republican crashed what was supposed to be a big libertarian party for Paul in October at the biennial meeting of the Republican Liberty Caucus, where he told the group that he "loves" Paul. Cruz feels that many of those supporters are flocking to his campaign.
Cruz tells crowds here that he co-sponsored Ron Paul's "Audit the Fed" bill, invokes the Fourth Amendment, a favorite of Paul, and discusses eminent domain, a contentious subject in much of this state.
New England, he said, was founded as a new land, where people "were meant to be free, not have the government dictate our fight."
At a stop in Goffstown, N.H., Cruz said he is "encouraged" by the number of supporters he has from the liberty movement and urged those who supported Paul to come to his campaign.
"Let me say to you and everyone with Rand in the liberty movement: I very much hope I can earn your support. I am asking for your support," Cruz said to Ryan Miner, a partner at a Maryland advertising firm who came here to support Paul and is now looking for another candidate.
Cruz made the pitch.
"I can tell you this: I have spent literally my entire adult life fighting to defend the Constitution. It has been my lifelong commitment," Cruz said.
Milner said Cruz's entreaty was "average, compelling and staged." Miner said he remains undecided, but is 'open' to Cruz.
"I'm candidate shopping," Milner said. "Sen. Cruz hasn't made the pitch to libertarians like myself on civil asset forfeiture and criminal justice reform."
Leah Wolzcko of Goffstown is a Paul supporter who said she hasn't yet decided if she can support Cruz - she thinks he is too militaristic with his pledges to "carpet bomb" the Islamic State. She wrote in Paul's father, Ron, for president in the general election in 2012 but wants to see libertarians consolidate around one candidate this time.
"You're attractive," she said to Cruz at a stop in Goffstown. The audience laughed.
"Well, thank you," Cruz, laughing, said.
"Intellectually," Wolzcko said.