×

CNBC Exclusive: CNBC’s John Harwood Interviews Senator Ted Cruz from CNBC Institutional Investor Delivering Alpha Conference Today

WHEN: WEDNESDAY, JULY 15TH

WHERE: CNBC'S "Closing Bell"

Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with Texas Senator and Presidential candidate Ted Cruz live from the CNBC Institutional Investor Delivering Alpha conference in New York City on Wednesday, July 15th.

Following are links to the video of the interview on CNBC.com: http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000397848, http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000397878 and http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000397880.

Mandatory credit: CNBC Institutional Investor Delivering Alpha conference.

JOHN HARWOOD: Good afternoon. Welcome, Senator.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: Well, thank you, John. Very glad to be here.

JOHN HARWOOD: Speaking of Trumping things --

[LAUGHTER]

Why have you scheduled a meeting with Donald Trump?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: Oh, Donald and I have become friends. We sat down a number of times before he was a candidate. And we're sitting down again today. I have sat down with an awful lot of the candidates who are running for president. I try to be friends with all of them.

JOHN HARWOOD: Your colleagues in the field think that the remarks that he has made about immigrants are -- I believe they have said so, that they hurt the Republican party and the party's ability to win the 2016 presidential campaign.

You have defended him. You don't see it that way. Why not?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: Well, you know, sometimes it seems there's no sport that the media enjoys more than Republican-on-Republican violence. You are right. There are some 2016 candidates who have gone out of their way to wack Donald Trump with a stick. I'm not one of them.

He's got a colorful way of speaking. It's a different way than I speak.

JOHN HARWOOD: But wait. You are talking about wacking somebody with a stick who has called a large group of people criminals, rapists, not the best of the society.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: But to be clear, what I salute him for is focusing on the problem of illegal immigration. One of the interesting things watching that poll a minute ago that was done here, one of the choices that wasn't given to the men and women here was illegal immigration.

I can tell you if you get outside of Manhattan to the rest of the country, illegal immigration is consistently at or near the top of the list. And the reason is --

JOHN HARWOOD: Wait. Is there a country outside of Manhattan?

[LAUGHTER]

SENATOR TED CRUZ: What was it? The cover of that old "New Yorker" magazine, it's sort of the same sort of thing. Look, the reason is there's a class divide on this issue of immigration. You know where illegal immigration resonates powerfully? With steel workers in Ohio, with single moms who are waiting tables, with teenage immigrants like my dad was in 1957 washing dishes who are losing their jobs to people who are here illegally. That's where the issue resonates.

JOHN HARWOOD: You are not offended by the things that he said about immigrants?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: He speaks in a way that I wouldn't speak, but I think it's important to highlight illegal immigration.

JOHN HARWOOD: Even in that way?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: It's not the way I would have done it. But it's interesting. All of the Republican candidates who are smacking him for saying that, every one of them has been a vigorous proponent of amnesty for many years. I disagree with them on that. I think we should secure our borders.

JOHN HARWOOD: Wait. Amnesty? Jeb Bush says he's not for amnesty. Scott Walker says he's not for amnesty. Marco Rubio says he's not for amnesty. Why are they wrong? Are they lying?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: It's interesting. As you lay those out in politics sometimes verb tenses matter. You're right, they say they are not currently for amnesty. In every election, you discover people become campaign conservatives.

What I think voters are interested in is not the promises made on the campaign trail. Voters are interested in someone's real record.

JOHN HARWOOD: Do you think that Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker are misleading Republican voters right now?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: What I do think is each of those three has vigorously and vocally and for many years advocated amnesty. I disagree with them on that. Now I'm not interested in engaging in the back and forth in the character attacks.

We are going to have policy disagreements. Policy disagreements are meant to be the bread and butter of politics. But I don't think it is appropriate to be impugning the integrity or the character of other candidates.

JOHN HARWOOD: Okay.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: And I don't intend to do so.

JOHN HARWOOD: Okay. Donald Trump is one of the opponents you have in this race. Do you see him as a plausible occupant of the oval office, plausible president of the United States? Or are you simply defending him because you expect him to collapse and you want to inherit his votes?

[LAUGHTER]

SENATOR TED CRUZ: Well, let's be clear. I'm running to win so I expect everyone to collapse and I'd like to inherit all their votes. At the end of the day, I will readily plead guilty to that.

But I also say I like Donald. He's bold. He's brash. Part of the reasons people are supporting Donald Trump right now is they are fed up with politicians in Washington who don't tell you the truth. They don't do what they said they would do.

JOHN HARWOOD: Uh-huh.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: And a lot of his support reflects that right now. I appreciate that brashness.

JOHN HARWOOD: But you would be comfortable -- If, by some unlikely event, you don't win the Republican nomination and Donald Trump did, would you be comfortable with him as the Republican candidate?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: I will support the Republican nominee, whoever the Republican nominee is. I believe we're going to win the nomination.

JOHN HARWOOD: Uh-huh. Let me ask you about the people in this room. As you look out at them, do you see a bunch of crony capitalists? Because you told me Wall Street is filled with crony capitalists.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: You know, actually it's a very interesting question you asked. There are men and women here who are focused on at this conference Delivering Alpha, on producing returns in excess of a benchmark with a given data. It's interesting if you think about it.

JOHN HARWOOD: You've got the lingo down.

[LAUGHTER]

SENATOR TED CRUZ: Well, you know, I'm trying to respect your terrain. But it's interesting if you think of the rise of activist investors -- the next speaker here is Carl Icahn. Twenty, 30 years ago when a Carl Icahn, when Nelson Peltz began becoming an activist, what were the adjectives that were used for them? They were radicals. They were bomb throwers. They were disrupters. Yet they ended up dramatically increasing returns.

I think an interesting question for the men and women gathered here is: How do we Deliver Alpha in government? Do we think Washington is performing the way it should? Or could it perform at a far better level? And how do you measure performance for government?

I would suggest a couple of things. Number one, GDP growth. My number one priority in office is economic growth because it's foundational to opportunity. And number two, I would say income mobility. The ability of those at the bottom of the economic ladder to move up.

And what I would suggest, what I have been trying to do in Washington --

You know I mentioned that the activists 20, 30 years ago were called bomb throwers and radicals. I can't imagine what it feels like to have people use those kind of adjectives to describe you.

JOHN HARWOOD: Let me go back to Washington. We talked a couple of months ago about the fact that both George W. Bush and Barack Obama and Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke at the time we were in the crisis at the fall of 2008 believed that Government needed to save the American economy, to bail out the financial sector as a means of bailing out the broader economy. And you said no, that was wrong, and that they were listening to crony capitalists.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: There is a tendency in Washington in both parties to support giant corporations. For example, right now we're having a debate over the Export-Import Bank. Let's use that as an example that is before Congress right now. The EX-IM Bank guarantees -- issues loan guarantees to foreign countries and foreign companies. It puts taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars. And it favors a handful of giant corporations.

That's the pattern of Washington where giant interests that have lobbyists get taxpayer benefits at the expense of the single mom, at the expense of the union member, at the expense of the schoolteacher who is paying their taxes and who don't have lobbyists.

I think that's wrong to be picking winners and losers. I'll note that Congress on June 30th let the export-import bank expire. And yet you're seeing both Democrats and Republicans come together and say this example of corporate welfare needs to be re-authorized.

It's interesting. You look at some Democrats who rail and give all this populous rhetoric against cronyism, and yet one of the advocates of the Export-Import Bank is Elizabeth Warren. Barack Obama when he was a senator said the Export-Import Bank is a perfect example of cronyism. As president, suddenly Barack Obama doesn't agree with Senator Barack Obama.

JOHN HARWOOD: Well, let me play devil's advocate and take the other side of that trade. There are a lot of people in business, financial sector who I've talked to who say this debate is ridiculous. Every one of our major trading partners who we compete with has to export subsidies of this kind. The only thing you do if you kill this Export-Import Bank is push business to other countries. What's wrong with that?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: Look, there's no doubt people make that argument. There is cronyism across the world. Yes, other governments subsidize their corporations. That's not an argument to say that we should have government taking taxpayer money from hard-working men and women to pick winners and losers.

And what happens when you do that is you lose the dynamism in our economy. Let's go back to the analogy of activist investors, but let's take it in a tech context. If you think about a killer app that's a transformational app, let's think about an Uber or a Lyft that comes into a new market and redefines how a good or service is delivered. Inevitably, there is massive pushback from the incumbent providers. The taxicab providers fight back on the Uber and Lyft.

That's what's happening in Washington. Washington supports the incumbent providers. The dynamism of our economy comes from the ability of small businesses to do what Schumpeter called creative destruction. That's what Washington is strangling.

And what I have been trying to bring to the political process is very much that same dynamic of shifting power out of the bipartisan corruption of Washington and bringing it back to the people.

I think if we empower the people, if we take power out of Washington, that will, number one, dramatically expand GDP, but it also expands income mobility.

So, for example, President Obama and Hillary Clinton love talking about income inequality. Let me tell you. I love it when they bring it up because it's increased dramatically under their policies.

The simple reality is big business does great with big government. I'll give you a statistic that you'll never hear President Obama or Hillary Clinton admit. The top 1 percent, the millionaires and billionaires who President Obama constantly demagogues, today earn a higher share of our income than any year since 1928.

JOHN HARWOOD: Now, you know who you're talking to right now, right?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: I am. You know, it's interesting a lot of the folks in here have done very well, but they don't necessarily come from money. Many of the people in here started in the mail room and are interested in an environment where other people can start with nothing and move up. That has been what has been going away. More and more big government takes away that mobility.

JOHN HARWOOD: Let me bring the audience in just for a show of hands. Any corrupt crony capitalists in this room that think we should keep the Export-Import Bank? You did your job.

[LAUGHTER]

SENATOR TED CRUZ: In the legal biz, that's what's known as a loaded question.

JOHN HARWOOD: Yes. The fact that no one on Wall Street was criminally prosecuted for events that occurred around the financial crisis has prompted criticism from some people, from the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic party, some Republicans as well.

Do you think it was wrong that nobody on Wall Street went to jail? And do you think Hillary Clinton said in her economic speech the other day that one of her objectives as president was to toughen the approach to those prosecutions?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: You know, Hillary did say that. And no one who has observed Hillary Clinton's policies for the last 30 years believes that for an instant.

JOHN HARWOOD: That she would do that?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: That she would do that. Of course, she wouldn't.

JOHN HARWOOD: Why?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: Because if you look at her policy --

Let's talk about what the role of government should be. Under the Obama administration, and for that matter under a Hillary Clinton administration, the role of government is twofold. Number one, it's a Santa Claus. It's giving out favoritism. It's giving out subsidies. It's giving out guarantees in exchange for campaign contributions. And nobody has been better at shaking those down than Hillary Clinton.

But, on the other hand, it's a thug and it's an enforcer. How many Wall Street firms has the Obama administration come after with bogus prosecutions to extract settlements of billions of dollars?

How many regulators go to small banks and community financial institutions pressuring them to change their practices?

I don't think government should be playing the role of either Santa Claus or thug.

JOHN HARWOOD: But let me go back to what you just said about Hillary. Because there is a line of argument from many in your party that the Democratic party, and Hillary Clinton in particular, have shifted wildly toward the populist left. If that's true, why wouldn't they go prosecute?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: They haven't, their rhetoric has. Let's look at policy.

JOHN HARWOOD: You think they have not shifted wildly?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: I don't think they have remotely. I think the Democrats are the party of the rich and big government and cronyism. That is the Democratic party. You look at the Clinton Foundation --

JOHN HARWOOD: You think if you are nominated begins Hillary, you are going to lose in this room?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: No. Because I actually think a lot of people in this room respect the dynamism of an economy. They are not necessarily looking to government for a handout, but they also don't want government shaking them down like enforcers. They want to let the market decide. And, you know, you see that.

Let's take Dodd-Frank, for example. Dodd-Frank was sold to the American people as stopping the problem of too big to fail.

How did that work out? The big banks are bigger. There's been greater concentration. And the people, John, that have been driven out of business are the little guys. It's the small banks. It's the community financial institutions.

JOHN HARWOOD: But we don't know if too big to fail worked because we haven't had a crisis. You're only going to know if somebody is on the verge of failing.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: Here's the point. The big banks were in the room with the Democrats writing Dodd-Frank. Driving the little guys out of business wasn't an unintended consequence. It was the intended outcome.

JOHN HARWOOD: Barney frank said we put death panels in that bill. And if we get to the point, we will find if the death panels work.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: The simple -- they have already worked. They have killed hundreds and even thousands of small financial institutions. Because if you are a local bank -- look, if you are a gigantic institution in New York, you can afford the extra 50 or 100 or 150 lawyers and accountants to deal with the paperwork.

I'll tell you, I talk with community bankers all the time who are being driven out of business because they can't afford the additional paperwork. And that's not an unusual phenomenon.

You look at Obamacare. When Obamacare was drafted, the giant insurance companies were sitting in the room drafting the legislation. What's happened? They got the federal government to mandate to millions of Americans you must purchase their product or we will fine you. Insurance companies are earning record returns right now.

JOHN HARWOOD: Just like drivers, right? Drivers have to buy an insurance product, too.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: But there's a different there in that a driver -- typically a driver doesn't have to buy his own insurance. He simply has to buy liability for others.

And what's happened -- let's take Obamacare. You want to talk about the income effects of Obamacare. It is a massive wealth transfer from young healthy people to everybody else.

It's very interesting. If you look at polling numbers, the last two elections Obama won young people 70-30. Right now today the president's approval rating has plummeted with young people. Obamacare has plummeted with young people. There are a lot of young people with faded posters of hope and change.

[LAUGHTER]

Sleeping in their parents' garage.

JOHN HARWOOD: Let me shift to a different topic.

[LAUGHTER]

Let me shift to a different topic.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: And actually, let me just make a quick point. You want to sum up this race in one simple meme? It's a meme we put out on Facebook. Reaganomics, you start a business in your parents' garage. Obamanomics, you move into your parents' garage.

[LAUGHTER]

JOHN HARWOOD: One thing I think everybody in this room is for is expanded trade. You made a very public display of being with President Obama supporting trade promotion authority. Then when it came up on a freestanding vote, you flipped and voted against it. Why did you do that?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: Well, I am a long time advocate of free trade. I remain a long time advocate of free trade. There were two things that changed in the arrangement. Initially, I voted in favor of trade authority. Two things changed.

Number one, afterwards it became clear that leadership in both houses had cut a deal where they had agreed to re-authorize the Export-Import Bank as a condition of getting TPA. I think that was a corrupt deal. I oppose crony capitalism. That was one reason I shifted my vote to no.

JOHN HARWOOD: Do you think that your Republican leadership in the House and Senate are, "A," corrupt? And "B," cannot be trusted to do things that their constituents, their supporters, Republicans believe is in the best interest of the country?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: Let me answer that by telling a story. So two weeks ago I published a book called "A Time for Truth." The first chapter of the book is entitled Mendacity. And it describes what happened in the debt ceiling debate that happened about a year ago. You remember that big fight.

If you will recall what occurred, the debt ceiling has been the most effective lever Congress uses to impose any spending restraint on the federal government. The battle began when President Obama demanded what's called a clean debt ceiling. Trillions more in borrowing with zero spending reforms whatsoever.

House leadership, much to the astonishment of everything, joined with Democrats in passing that. A handful of Republicans and 190 Democrats passed a clean debt ceiling. It then went to the Senate.

Now, the usual rule in the Senate is to move to proceed to a debt ceiling takes 60 votes. That's the way the Senate has worked for decades. But any rule in the Senate can be changed by unanimous consent.

So the week we took it up, our leadership stood in front of us at lunch on Tuesday and said they were asking every Republican in the room, every Senator to consent, to affirmatively consent to lower the threshold for Harry Reid to take up the debt ceiling from 60 votes to 50 votes.

And we were told there are two reasons why we should do so. Number one, if we did it, hallelujah, hallelujah, it would pass. And that was the outcome we wanted. Trillions more in debt with no spending reforms. But number two, they said if you agree to do this, the Democrats will have the votes to pass it on their own, which means every one of us can vote no and we can go home and tell our constituents we opposed the thing we just consented to allow happen.

Now, when I heard that, I sat there for a minute. Then I raised my hand and I said, listen, there's no universe in which I can consent to do that. I spent two years traveling the state of Texas telling Texans if you elect me, I'll fight with every breath in my body to stop the out-of-control spending and debt that is bankrupting our kids and grandkids.

If I were to affirmatively consent to lower the threshold to make it easier for Barack Obama and Harry Reid to add trillions in debt while doing nothing, zero to fix the problem, I think that would be both dishonest and immoral and unfaithful to the men and women who elected me.

JOHN HARWOOD: Well, now, you and I talked about that a couple of months ago. You just said a few minutes ago you weren't going to impugn the integrity of your opponents in the race. But that's a pretty strong thing to say about your colleagues in the Senate.

I talked to one of your colleagues today. Said, what should I ask Cruz? And the answer was, ask him how he's going to get anything done in Washington if he is impugning the character of his own party.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: You know, it's a very interesting thing. The entire debate over the debt ceiling, that remaining week we had three days where my colleagues were yelling and screaming. I never raised my voice.

If you look at my entire time in Washington, to the best of my knowledge, I have never spoken ill of another senator. When another senator, Republican or Democratic, or any politician attacks me --

JOHN HARWOOD: Mendacious is kind of ill.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: Mendacity is different. And here is the point. What is considered problematic is telling the truth. That is considered unquestionably rude. They would rather you call them an SOB. They would rather you stand and yell and insult them and impugn their character rather than simply make the case as I did.

So we had three days of the senators all yelling at me. And by the way, out of 45 Republican senators, only one, Michael Lee, spoke out in favor of me. Three days of them yelling at me.

At one point one of them said, Ted, why are you trying to throw five Republicans under the bus? Because with a 60-vote threshold, the only way to take it up is for five Republicans to vote with the Democrats.

I said, listen, I'm not trying to throw anybody under the bus. It's leadership that's asking you to dive under the bus. Every one of you told your constituents the exact same thing I did. All I'm asking you to do is honor the commitments you made to the men and women who elected you.

JOHN HARWOOD: I'm going to note parenthetically that that circumstance, with every single Republican yelling at you, only Mike Lee standing with you, that is exactly what you wanted in that situation.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: To be honest, no, it is not.

JOHN HARWOOD: That made you a star. That created the possibility for you to run for president.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: What I wanted and what I want is to fix these problems. Listen, if you think Washington is going great, that we just need someone to fiddle around the edges, then I ain't your guy.

Let me finish this point real quick. If you think it's fundamentally broken, though, if you think we need someone to take on the system itself and tell the truth --

And let me give a political analogy to that. We have talked about activist investors. We have talked about Ubers. We've talk about change agents, but there's a political analogy which is 1980 and Ronald Reagan.

The Reagan revolution in 1980, Washington despised Reagan. Remember, Reagan had primaried Gerald Ford in 1976. You want to tick off Republican leadership in Washington, come within an inch of beating the incumbent Republican president in a primary.

Washington loathes Reagan. And Reagan did something to change the rules, which is that he took the case to the American people and he built a grassroots movement that became the Reagan revolution. And it transformed the country.

Imagine this were 1979, John, and you and I were both sitting here with Ronald Reagan, and Reagan were to tell this group of men and women, if you elect me, we'll cut the top marginal rate from 70 percent to 28 percent. We'll go from the current stagnant GNP to by the fourth year of my presidency, 1984, economic growth will be 7.2 percent a year. Our hostages will be released from Iran the day I'm sworn in. And within a decade, we'll win the cold war without firing a shot and tear the Berlin wall to the ground. You would have said this guy is nuts.

But what he was was a change agent. He brought the power of the people to change the incentives of Washington. There's an old joke that politics is Hollywood for ugly people.

[LAUGHTER]

It's a great deal of truth to that. If you want to change Washington, what Reagan did, the force of the Reagan revolution was so massive --

JOHN HARWOOD: You're saying your colleagues are ugly?

[LAUGHTER]

SENATOR TED CRUZ: Actually, my wife says I resemble that remark. But let me give a quick data point to show that that's happening now. There are 16 Republican candidates running for president, although it could be that there are 162. It seems like there are a lot of us.

This past week, just about all of the candidates have reported their fund-raising. Out of 16 candidates, do you know who raised the most hard money for their campaign?

JOHN HARWOOD: I think it's Ted Cruz.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: That would be correct. In just over three months, our campaign raised $14.3 million, more than every candidate in the race.

Jeb Bush raised 11.4 million. Now, if I'd have said three months ago that the Cruz campaign was going to outraise Jeb Bush, you'd have said I was nuts.

Now, how did we do that? The $14.3 million that we raised came from 175,000 contributions in all 50 states and all five territories. The average contribution was $81. And here's an amazing statistic. We have a Cruz donor in roughly half the ZIP Codes in America, 48.1 percent. It's the power of the people.

Now, the second piece is the super pacts. Every candidate has a super pact. Jeb's is massive. He raised $103 million in his super pact. He's going to have unlimited money like Ozymandias, is where Jeb is going to be.

But the second place super pact donor or super pact recipient was our campaign with $38 million putting our aggregate fund-raising at $52 million. That's because people want change.

JOHN HARWOOD: Let me break in for a lightning round. Because you have been talking so long, I haven't gotten to all these points.

[LAUGHTER]

SENATOR TED CRUZ: I'm in the Senate. Filibuster is in the blood.

JOHN HARWOOD: All right, fair enough. Quick question. Greece right now is in a little turmoil. We have had some violence today as the Greek parliament is considering this deal. Do you think -- and try to make this a quick answer. Do you think that the eurozone was a mistake in the first place and it doesn't matter all that much if they leave? Or do you think it is highly important for Greece to stay in?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: Look, whether the eurozone was a mistake or not I think that's a question for Europe to decide. And whether it will serve as a contagion or not, it certainly hasn't seemed to so far.

What I will say is most interesting about Greece is it is giving us the benefit of foreshadowing. Because Greece represents -- we have had two presidents. The last two presidents -- when George W. Bush was elected, our national debt was $5 trillion. When he left the White House, it was $10 trillion. When Obama came into office, the debt was $10 trillion. When he leaves the White House, it's going to be 20 trillion.

Two presidents will have increased our debt 300 percent. $15 trillion, it's larger than GDP. You want to know where this ends? By the way, Hillary Clinton keeps that going. If she gets in office, it's 25 or 30 trillion when she leaves. And there comes a point where the hole is too deep, and there ain't nobody that's bailing out the United States. There's no one big enough to do it.

JOHN HARWOOD: All right. Quick let me get on this lightning round because I'm getting the hook. Do you really want to block same-sex marriage so much that you are willing to change the character of the Supreme Court that you have been so effective an advocate before?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: Yeah, I support traditional marriage, but I am a constitutionalist. Under the constitution from the beginning of our nation, marriage has been a question for the states. That means if you or I want to change the marriage laws in our states, there's a constitutional avenue to do so. You can convince your fellow citizens marriage law should be different and the state legislature can vote to change it.

Now, what that means is you may well have the men of women of New York and California decide on one policy outcome, and you may have the citizens of Texas and Florida decide on a different policy outcome. Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis referred to that federalism as the laboratories of democracy.

And I think we should respect the constitution and the Democratic system. I don't think if makes any sense to have every major policy issue decided by five unelected lawyers in Washington.

JOHN HARWOOD: Okay. Three quick questions. One, Fox debate is next month. Then CNN. We have one in late October in Colorado.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: What's your first question going to be?

JOHN HARWOOD: My first question to you right now is: If you do not make the cut in one of those debates, what are you going to do?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: We are going to make the cut.

JOHN HARWOOD: Second question.

[LAUGHTER]

That's fine.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: You wanted it.

JOHN HARWOOD: Sure. You have a reputation in Washington for taking on high-profile fights. I talked to another of your colleagues today who said, ask him what fight he ever started he ever ended successfully because there aren't any.

[LAUGHTER]

So my question for you is -- my question for you is, if you are a full spectrum conservative in this race, why would they go to the guy who has talked very conspicuously in Washington, as opposed to someone like Scott Walker who is a full spectrum conservative who has been elected and re-elected in a swing state and has won those fights against labor unions, for example?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: Well, let me go back to your premise because your premise isn't right. I'm going to talk about two different phases. Number one, before I was in the Senate, unlike Barack Obama, I wasn't a community organizer. I was the solicitor general of Texas, the chief lawyer for the state in front of the United States Supreme Court. I served in that executive position for five and a half years. And over and over again, we defended conservative principles and won on a national level. We defended the Ten Commandments monument on the state capitol grounds, won 5-4. We defended the Second Amendment, won 5-4. We defended the pledge of allegiance, won unanimously.

In fact, we stood up and fought the World Court, the United Nations and President George W. Bush defending U.S. sovereignty.

JOHN HARWOOD: That's your answer to Scott Walker, you got results, too.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: Let's talk about the Senate, too. You began by saying what fights have you won. Let me answer the question if you want to know what fights I've won.

JOHN HARWOOD: Well, but let me -- because I'm getting such an aggressive hook, I'm going to --

No. You talked about things that you have actually won. And that's fair.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: There are quite a few in the Senate, which I'll be happy to discuss, too.

JOHN HARWOOD: Finally, Jeb Bush's largest corporate source of donations in terms of where people work is Goldman Sachs, where your wife works. What does that tell you?

SENATOR TED CRUZ: Listen, there is no doubt for much of Wall Street, particularly for the large banks, that the support is divided between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. And much of the sentiment in the big banks is it doesn't matter much which one will win because neither one will rock the boat. Both will keep us going in the same basic trajectory where the very, very rich keep getting richer and richer and richer. But we have today the lowest labor force participation since 1978.

JOHN HARWOOD: But you have got an in in Goldman Sachs. You should be wired to Goldman Sachs.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: You know who I'm fighting for? I'm fighting for people like my dad who was an 18-year-old Cuban immigrant, not speaking English, was washing dishes making 15 cents an hour. I'm fighting for people like my mom who was an Irish Italian girl from Wilmington, Delaware, stood up to her alcoholic father to become the first person to go to college.

You know, I mentioned my book "A Time for Truth," for any of you wondering who is this fellow that the media says is so crazy because he stands up to Washington, I'd encourage you to read the book and learn about what I'm fighting for. I'm fighting for the country all of us believe in.

And if you want the status quo, those two candidates are the candidates of the status quo. If you want change, if you want to bring power out of Washington, get back to the constitution and empower those who are struggling to be able to climb the economic ladder and achieve the American dream, that's what I'm fighting to do.

JOHN HARWOOD: Guys, I think you can join me in agreeing that this is one candidate who on that debate stage is going to give as good as he gets. Join me in thanking Ted Cruz.

About CNBC:

With CNBC in the U.S., CNBC in Asia Pacific, CNBC in Europe, Middle East and Africa, CNBC World and CNBC HD , CNBC is the recognized world leader in business news and provides real-time financial market coverage and business information to approximately 371 million homes worldwide, including more than 100 million households in the United States and Canada. CNBC also provides daily business updates to 400 million households across China. The network's 15 live hours a day of business programming in North America (weekdays from 4:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. ET) is produced at CNBC's global headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., and includes reports from CNBC News bureaus worldwide. CNBC at night features a mix of new reality programming, CNBC's highly successful series produced exclusively for CNBC and a number of distinctive in-house documentaries.

CNBC also has a vast portfolio of digital products which deliver real-time financial market news and information across a variety of platforms. These include CNBC.com, the online destination for global business; CNBC PRO, the premium, integrated desktop/mobile service that provides real-time global market data and live access to CNBC global programming; and a suite of CNBC Mobile products including the CNBC Real-Time iPhone and iPad Apps.

Members of the media can receive more information about CNBC and its programming on the NBC Universal Media Village Web site at http://www.nbcumv.com/mediavillage/networks/cnbc/.