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Cruz to make 'major announcement' at downtown rally

April 27, 2016

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said he will be making a "major announcement" Wednesday afternoon in downtown Indianapolis amid speculation he will name a running mate.

Cruz said Wednesday morning outside Sister's Place Restaurant in Indianapolis that Indiana will play a major role in the campaign for the Republican nomination for president.

The announcement will be made during a 4 p.m. rally for Cruz at Pan Am Plaza, the campaign said.

Cruz declined to say what his announcement will be, but his aides have identified a "short list" of possible vice presidential candidates. A spokeswoman for Carly Fiorina has confirmed that the former business executive is among those being considered.

Asked on Fox & Friends about Cruz potentially naming a running mate, front-runner Donald Trump said, "to me it looks ridiculous, he's not going to get the nomination."

Trump and Cruz are courting Indiana voters by appealing to the state's love of basketball.

But what should have been a slam dunk for Cruz quickly turned into a foul Tuesday night when he appeared to refer to the hoop as a "basketball ring" while recreating a scene from the famous film "Hoosiers." And Donald Trump is trying to remind Hoosiers of the real-life basketball heyday of the 1970s and 1980s, by campaigning Wednesday with Bob Knight.

Cruz's comment was ridiculed on social media, drawing comparisons to Democrat John Kerry's famous faux pas, when in 2004 he referred to the Green Bay Packers home field in football crazed-Wisconsin as "Lambert Field," instead of Lambeau.

Trump's association with Knight, who brought three national titles to Indiana, also bears some risk. Much like Trump, Knight is known for the unpredictable spout and occasional brashness, and has drawn controversy with boorish behavior that includes accusations of physical and verbal abuse.

People in Indiana either love Knight or hate him, said undecided Republican voter Russ Hammer, who attended the Cruz rally.

"I'm not sure Trump's doing the right thing there," Hammer said, standing on the floor of the gym made famous in "Hoosiers."

Knight's once-broad popularity in the state has diminished with his refusal to reconcile with Indiana University in the years since he was fired in 2000 following 29 seasons as the Hoosiers' coach. He has rebuffed invitations for a return to campus and skipped an Assembly Hall ceremony in January honoring his most famous team—the 1975-76 national championship team that is the last Division I men's team to complete a perfect season.

All of the plays catering to Indiana's love of basketball are coming as both Cruz and Trump see the state as a crucial state as they pursue different paths to winning the GOP nomination.

Cruz is desperate for an Indiana victory on Tuesday to block Trump from scoring a majority of delegates before the convention this summer. Trump, coming off a sweep on Tuesday in five Northeastern states, hopes another victory in Indiana will make it nearly impossible for Cruz to play on.

And they both know the allure of basketball to the state's voters.

"We had a floodlight, and me and seven or eight buddies would play every single night until two or three in the morning," said the 52-year-old Hammer. "We'd shovel snow off to play."

This is the state where Larry Bird grew into a legend. Basketball hoops dot the landscape across the state, from suburban backyards around the biggest city Indianapolis to out of the way places like Knightstown where Cruz stopped on Tuesday. In an allusion to one of "Hoosiers" most famous scenes, Cruz had one of his aides drop a tape measure from the top of one of the baskets to show it's the same 10-feet height as all the others.

Actor Gene Hackman, who played the coach of a small town Indiana team, did the same thing in the film to calm his team down before they played in the state championship.

Cruz acknowledged his gaffe while speaking to reporters Wednesday in Indianapolis, saying "I stumbled while speaking."

"The point of that observation is the power brokers in Washington want this race to be over and the media over and over again is repeating Donald Trump's spin that the race is over," he said. Cruz joked that his campaign team wanted him to run laps for making the mistake.

As he recreated the scene Tuesday night, his supporters, who sat on wooden bleachers, and watched from the basketball court floor, roared their approval.

"There is nothing that Hoosiers cannot do," Cruz said.
 

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