Cruz aimed right at them, elongating his standard riff about the risks a Democratic president would pose to the Supreme Court, and saying that his justices would end eminent-domain abuse.
"Many people here are familiar with the case of Kelo v. New London," Cruz said. "Kelo was a disgrace."
This was not the first time Cruz had attacked Kelo and eminent domain in a New Hampshire speech, but a debate moment that Cruz had no part of seemed to give him an opening. In rival Jeb Bush's best moment from Saturday night, the former Florida governor tore into Donald Trump for his legal campaign to seize property from an elderly woman and use it to expand parking at one of his Atlantic City properties.
Cruz did not mention Trump by name in his speech, but as soon as he finished, a voter gave him a chance to extend his remarks.
"What do you think of the Kinder Morgan Company taking our land away in order to build a pipeline to ship gas overseas?" she asked.
"I think we need to follow the law," Cruz said. And then, in one of two complicated monologues on his rural swing, he described in detail why energy companies might enjoy eminent-domain powers that he would deny to most private interests.
"The law on pipelines has varied," he said. "When it come to oil pipelines, they're governed by state law -- different states have different standards on eminent domain. Pipelines have often been considered similar to roads, as common carriers, but that varies state by state, depending on what the standards are. For a gas pipeline, that's governed by federal law, and it sets forward very clear, defined standards for eminent domain. We need to follow those standards. Part of those standards means that a private company doesn't have a right to trespass on your property. We need to protect your property rights, we need to make sure that federal law is followed, and we need to honor those commitments."
It was not clear if the answer was flying, so Cruz tried to land it. "Eminent domain has been allowed for public use," he said. "Pipelines have been considered -- because they are common carriers, because they are transporting materials that are used for multiple sellers, they have been analogized to roads. They're in a gray area. They vary state by state. I think we need to follow the law, ma'am -- and make sure that the law is properly respecting our property rights, but also ensuring that we can develop our energy infrastructure."
Two hours later, at a crowded Mexican restaurant and bar in Keene, Cruz was asked no questions about eminent domain. But he took a question about how falling oil prices might affect the economy, and ran with it into a convoluted, libertarian-flavored epistle about money.
"One of the problems is the volatility of the dollar," he said. "You know, if you look at the policies of the Fed – I’m an original co-sponsor of Ron Paul’s audit the Fed bill, and I am very concerned about the policies of the Fed, because what we’ve seen is a rapidly careening dollar, where you have a strong dollar, then a weak dollar, then a strong dollar, then a weak dollar. What you see is commodity prices shoot up and shoot down, shoot up and shoot down, and it causes enormous dislocation. When commodity prices go up, what happens is everyone runs into a sector, they get jobs, and when the prices fall they’re out of work. And my view is that we don’t want a strong dollar or a weak dollar. We want a stable dollar."
In Keene, as in Peterborough, it was difficult to peer through Cruz's growing crowd and see if the answer had connected. He continued.
"Look, a dollar is a unit of measurement," he said. "It is the measure by which we assess: What is more valuable, a television or an automobile? The way we assess that is using the dollar to measure the comparative value. You know, think about it in a different context, think of the unit of measurement of time – an hour. Now, do you want a long hour or a short hour? As a practical matter, we want an hour to be 60 minutes, every time, over and over again. We want a stable hour, because it’s a unit of measurement. Money is the same thing – it’s a unit of measurement. So the reason why we see these rapid oscillations in commodities markets, it’s because of unstable currencies. And it’s why I think we should look at going toward rules-based monetary supply, ideally tied to gold, so you have stability. And I think that would improve the lives of a great many working people."
Between the events, Cruz's campaign announced the fruits of his effort to recruit libertarian endorsers. Rand Paul had claimed 29 endorsements from New Hampshire legislators, the most of any candidate. Cruz, as of Sunday afternoon, had won over six of them. One of them quickly told the New York Times that he was not actually endorsing Cruz.