At least 1,000 hear Ted Cruz in Murfreesboro

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) - Republican presidential candidate and Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz filled up a Murfreesboro community center and then some early Monday afternoon as part of a bus tour through the south that includes four stops in Tennessee.

The US Senator from Texas stuck to familiar anti-federal government and anti-President Obama themes in a 45-minute speech that did not include a town hall format as advertised.

Cruz said he ran about an hour late because he went by the memorial in Chattanooga for victims of the military recruiting shootings there last month.

At least 800 people were in a gym at the Patterson Community Center and another 200 listened from an adjoining gym.

The senator, who was among the 10 presidential candidates at Thursday's GOP debate in Cleveland, did not mention the controversy surrounding Republican frontrunner Donald Trump during the speech, but afterwards told reporters it was a "sideshow media likes to focus on."

The crowd in Republican-dominated Rutherford County included a Lebanon, Tennessee, pastor who was cited by Cruz for baptizing his father Rafael decades earlier in Houston and saving the older Cruz from leaving the young immigrant family.

Cruz was unapologetic about running as anti-Washington, saying "every time we run as Democrat-lite we lose."

He also didn't mention the controversies of front-runner Donald Trump during his 45-minute speech but was asked about it later by reporters.

"There is nothing the media likes to talk about more than the politics of personality with one Republican throwing rocks at another," Cruz responded. "I am not interested in playing that game, and I don't think the American people are interested in a soap opera of personalities."

After beginning the day in Chattanooga, the Texas senator was also scheduled to be in Franklin Monday afternoon and Jackson Monday evening.

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