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Stephen Colbert Quizzes Ted Cruz on Gay Marriage, Constitution

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz faced a tough interview Monday with "Late Show" host Stephen Colbert, who challenged the Texas senator on his professed similarities to President Ronald Reagan and his opposition to same-sex marriage.

Asked how he would convince less conservative voters to support him, Cruz said he hoped to follow in the footsteps of the 40th president.

"If you think about the last 50 years, there is one Republican who has a group of Democrats named after him: Reagan Democrats," said Cruz. "Those Democrats didn’t come over because he was the squishiest, middle-of-the-road candidate; they came over because he represented principles that were appealing."

Colbert pushed back, however, noting that Reagan raised taxes and had an amnesty program for undocumented immigrants — two positions that would disqualify him from today’s Republican primary race. Reagan was also known for his ability to reach across party lines, having established a close and politically effective relationship with then-Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil.

"It’s a matter of compromising," Colbert said. "Will you be willing to compromise with the other side?"

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Cruz did not say yes, though he did concede that there was “nothing diabolical” about the other side. Instead, he repeated his commitment to fighting for certain principles: "Live within our means, stop bankrupting our kids and grandkids, and follow the Constitution."

"And no gay marriage," Colbert shot back.

Cruz responded that the Constitution reserves the question of marriage to the states, but Colbert again challenged him. "It doesn’t mention marriage in the Constitution," he said to loud applause.

When a few audience members began to boo the White House hopeful, Colbert asked for their respect and gave Cruz the last word.

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"The 10th Amendment states that if the Constitution doesn’t mention it, it’s a question for the states," said Cruz, a Harvard law graduate who once clerked for Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. "I don’t think we should entrust governing our society to five unelected lawyers in Washington."

On his last line, Cruz received some applause, which largely eluded him throughout the interview. "If you want to win an issue, go to the ballot box and win at the ballot box," he said. "That’s the way the Constitution was designed."

This article first appeared on MSNBC.com.