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Ted Cruz ventures to land of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, looking to pick off Jewish -- and Cuban -- support

@PatriciaMazzei

The Republican presidential candidate holding a top-dollar fundraiser Wednesday evening in Miami's ritzy suburb of Bal Harbour wasn't named Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz came to South Florida to woo Jewish donors as Congress prepares to vote on President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran. And while he didn't hold any public events -- and doesn't plan to anytime soon -- Cruz said in a phone interview with the Miami Herald that he hasn't written off the state just because two of his rivals live here.

"We have tremendous support in Florida, and I have been very, very encouraged. We've been down to Florida quite a number of times," he said. "We have raised a great deal from Florida."

Last quarter, Cruz trailed only Democrat Hillary Clinton and Bush and Rubio in Florida fundraising, pulling in $317,000 from the state -- more than two other Florida residents, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Cruz said he's centered his attention on the conservative grassroots and, Wednesday evening, on members of the Jewish community "deeply concerned" about the Iran agreement, which Cruz called "catastrophic." The fundraiser was to take place at the home of the Falic family, the conservative supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Weston Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Politico reported.

The Texan said he also hopes to appeal to Cuban Americans as the son of a Cuban immigrant, Rafael Cruz. Republicans welcomed the younger Cruz to the Miami-Dade County Lincoln Day fundraising dinner last year though that was long before anyone had jumped into the presidential race.

"The reception was breathtaking and really gratifying," Cruz said. "No doubt a significant part of that is our shared heritage."

Cruz doesn't speak Spanish well, while Rubio (who is Cuban-American) and Bush (who's wife is Mexican-American) do. And Cruz takes a much harder line on immigration reform.

He said what binds him to Miami's Cuban community is growing up as the son of an exile.

"Our family understands full well the price of freedom and indeed that is precisely why I ran for office," Cruz said. "Because as a child growing up in our home, my father would say to me over and over again, 'When we faced oppression in Cuba, I had a place to flee to. If we lose our freedom here, where do we go?'"

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