The Washington Times - August 5, 2013, 11:01AM

The Republican Party of Iowa, site of the first caucuses of the 2016 presidential cycle, announced Monday that Sen. Ted Cruz will headline its annual Ronald Reagan Commemorative Dinner.

Mr. Cruz, a freshman Texas Republican, has not been a shrinking violet on Capitol Hill, where he is now challenging Republican lawmakers to shut down the federal government to stop funding for President Obama’s health care law — elevating his status in the eyes of some tea partyers and grassroots conservatives.

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“Senator Cruz has quickly become nationally recognizable as someone who came to Washington to truly shake things up,” said Republican Party Chairman A.J. Spiker. “Cruz has been a tremendous leader in holding the Obama administration accountable for the out-of-control debt and spending problems we face today. We are both honored and ecstatic to be having him keynote our fall Reagan Dinner.”

Mr. Cruz traveled to Iowa last month for the state GOP’s annual picnic and to meet with evangelical leaders. He also will also be in Ames next weekend for a summit hosted by the Family Leader, a traditional values group who opposes abortion and same-sex marriage.

The Iowa visits have fueled speculation that Mr. Cruz is pondering a presidential run in 2016.

The Reagan dinner is scheduled for Oct. 25 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.