NATIONAL HARBOR, Md., March 4, 2016 — Texas Gov. Rick Perry opened up the second day of CPAC 2014 by calling for a little revolution on the battlefield of ideas. He really roused the sleepy early-morning crowd. This year, Perry wasn’t at CPAC, nor was there anyone with the last name Paul to rouse the crowd. CPAC 2016 was beginning to seem rather ordinary.
Gov. Kasich spoke on Friday. Considering the relatively small number of Kasich supporters at CPAC, he was well-received.
Sen. Ted Cruz spoke later, around 4:30. The crowd must have been tired. The Secret Service had practically locked down the ballroom since 1 p.m. You could go out, but getting back in was a real problem. At some point they decided the room was at capacity and wouldn’t let anyone else enter.
Cruz’s introduction was mercifully brief and people were already on their feet and cheering. When he came on stage there were more cheers followed by chants of “Ted! Ted! Ted!” It rivaled a raucous Rand Paul entrance.
Anyone who says Cruz is humorless has never heard him speak. He opened with a few quick jokes and then got right down to business. This election will be about three things, he said: jobs, freedom, and security. He then went on to explain each in typical Cruz style: no podium, no notes and no teleprompter.
He explained each point, getting into some detail, never losing his place and always returning to the next point in his outline.
About jobs, he said first that government needs to get its boot off the backs of business and reduce regulations. Second, he said he would repeal every word of Obamacare, emphasizing the job-killing nature of the beast. He also called for a flat tax and for abolishing the IRS. He talked about the 2013 amnesty bill in terms of jobs and reminded the crowd that he stood against it.
Cruz spoke of freedom mostly in the context of the Supreme Court. He told the audience that he knew Justice Antonin Scalia very well; Cruz started his career as a clerk to the Supreme Court. He said Scalia was “a lion of the law who ferociously defended the Bill of Rights.”
The reality, he continued, is that we are one liberal justice away from the Supreme Court saying no to our religious freedom, no to the Second Amendment, and subordinating the country to the rule of international law.
“I will not compromise away your religious liberties,” he said to loud cheers.
“I will not compromise away your Second Amendment rights,” he said to even louder cheers.
He then turned to security, his third topic.
“The United States will stand unapologetically with the nation of Israel,” he said to probably loudest applause of all.
He said that if elected—at which point someone from the audience loudly shouted “When!”—we’ll have a president willing to utter the words “Radical Islamic terrorism.”
He explained how Ronald Reagan got the economy moving again and used the extra revenue to defeat the Soviet Union. He said that he intends to defeat radical Islam in exactly the same way.
The short speech was classic Cruz. This was no made-for-the-occasion speech designed to pander to the audience. He said exactly the same things at CPAC 2014 and many times since—long before he announced for the presidential nomination. It is for good reason that Cruz is known as the consistent conservative.
He said in closing that the lasting legacy of President Obama will be the new generation of leaders of the Republican Party who stand for liberty and the Judeo-Christian values that made this country great. He garnered biggest standing ovation of all for his final line.
The deal at CPAC was that each presidential candidate would speak for half their allotted time, then submit to questions and answers for the other half. (Internet rumor says that’s why Trump didn’t show.)
Sean Hannity came out to do the questioning. During that session, Cruz made a couple of other noteworthy points.
He made the point that he and Rubio have been making: 65 percent of GOP primary voters have voted against Trump. Trump’s nomination is not a done deal. One is reminded of Cruz’s uphill battle against Texas favorite Lt. Gov. Dewhurst in the U.S. senate primary.
There may be a Trump Train, but Cruz is the Little Engine That Could.
He also made a comment that he’s made before: He agrees with Sen. Bernie Sanders—on one thing. (Hannity warned him that this would become a sound bite.) Cruz said that Bernie has it right when he says that Washington is corrupt and rigged to the big guy. But, he continued, although Sanders has diagnosed the problem correctly, he has the wrong solution. If the problem is that government is corrupt, then the answer isn’t more government.
Asked about Hilary Clinton, he quipped that “Orange is the new Democratic blue.”
And he enthusiastically said, “I cannot wait to stand on that debate stand with Hillary Clinton!”
Most in the audience seemed energized to send him there.