“All these people say they’re going to defund Obamacare and they’re not trying. And he is.”

In an interview, Branstad called Cruz “a new face and one of the up-and-comers in Washington.” But when asked about 2016, Branstad said he’s looking to other GOP governors to step up. “We have many Republican governors that are doing many great things in terms of attracting businesses and jobs and reducing taxes and reforming education. I think governors are providing the leadership we don’t see in Washington, D.C.”

Party activists who attended the dinner said they generally appreciated Cruz’s efforts to generate GOP opposition to the health-care law.

Jeff Shipley, 25, of Fairfield is one of many younger GOP activists here who backed former congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.) for president in 2008 and 2012. He said Cruz’s decision to mount a filibuster in opposition to the health-care law had been the subject of spirited discussions at a recent party meeting.

“If I were going to talk for 21 hours, I’d probably also talk about other issues, like President Obama’s failure of leadership. Like our situation in Syria, and the fact that we’re spying on each other,” Shipley said.