Last weekend, as Ted Cruz gave a speech in New Hampshire, the likely Republican presidential candidate was interrupted by a three-year-old named Julia. “The Obama economy is a disaster, Obamacare is a train wreck and the Obama-Clinton foreign policy of leading from behind—the whole world is on fire,” Cruz told the crowd. “The world is on fire?” replied the obviously concerned Julia. “Yes,” Cruz said. “Your world is on fire.”
Multiple media outlets pounced on the exchange, with headlines ranging from “Cruz Scares Young Girl With Fiery NH Speech” to "Ted Cruz’s Speech Terrifies 3 Year-Old-Girl." The girl’s mother, Julie Trant, took to “Fox and Friends” to set the story straight, explaining that her daughter wasn’t afraid of Cruz. “She thought he was a firefighter,” Trant said. “She looked at him like he was a hero.”
It’s easy to dismiss the exchange between Cruz and his three-year-old supporter as sensationalism. But the interaction also highlights Cruz’s ability to rally support by using apocalyptic or even conspiratorial language. Although many in the media find Cruz’s use of such hyperbolic language alienating, there’s strong reason to believe that it actually has the opposite effect on his audience. In fact, throughout his career Cruz has relied on fire and brimstone rhetoric to create a world that trades ambiguity for absolutes. What’s more, Julia’s reaction to Senator Cruz as a hero—a firefighter, according to her mother—offers insight into why Cruz (and politicians in general) choose to employ this type of overly exaggerated speech in the first place.