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Lansing — Former state Republican Party leader Saul Anuzis will lead Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign in Michigan, the Cruz campaign announced Monday.

Anuzis is a former Michigan Republican Party chairman and Republican National Committeeman. In 2012, he endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for president.

“Saul has a strong record of leadership, success and exemplary management in Michigan,” Cruz said in a statement.

In an interview Monday, Anuzis described the first-term U.S. senator as a “Reaganesque” leader who can appeal to conservative Democrats, evangelical Christians and conservative voters who identify with the tea party movement.

“I think that Ted Cruz probably emerges as the conservative alternative to some of the more establishment candidates,” Anuzis told The Detroit News.

Anuzis argues Cruz will be among four to six GOP presidential candidates still in the race by the time Michigan’s March 8 primary comes around. So far, he is among six Republican candidates who have announced their presidential candidacies with others still exploring the idea, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Michigan will have 59 delegates at stake that will be awarded proportionally based on the winner of each of the state’s 14 congressional district and if a candidate carries more than 15 percent of the statewide vote.

“I’m not sure if he’ll win a majority, but I think Ted Cruz can play very well here,” Anuzis told The News.

On Saturday, Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz targeted Cruz in particular during a speech to more than 1,000 Michigan Democrats in Detroit.

“It’s fitting that Ted Cruz was the first Republican to jump into the presidential race because he's been their de facto leader in Congress for the past two years,” Wasserman Schultz said at the Michigan Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner at Cobo Center. “And he’s the embodiment of everything that is wrong with the Republican Party.”

Anuzis responded Monday to the DNC chief’s remarks.

“I think the Democrats are afraid of Ted Cruz,” Anuzis said. “These are the some things they said about Ronald Reagan back in the late ’70s and early ’80s. I think they see him as a real threat — and they should. I think that’s going to be one of the appeals.”

Also Monday, Cruz tapped former California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring to lead his campaign in California.

Anuzis said there are six finalists competing for a job on the Cruz campaign to be the paid state director for Michigan.

“As his message starts getting out ... I think people are going to be look at this guy as someone who is very smart, very passionate and willing to stir it up,” he said.

clivengood@detroitnews.com

(517) 371-3660

Twitter.com/ChadLivengood

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