Ted Cruz shuns the lectern.
An Ivy League debate champion, Cruz prefers to pace the platform without notes, which allows him to walk to the edge of the stage, look the crowd in the eye, and punctuate his points with swift hand movements. He finds his cadence and energizes the crowd with calls -- "On guns, do we surrender? Or do we stand up now?" -- that demand an audience response. He's erudite, quoting Madison and Jefferson, yet approachable, cracking jokes and quoting lines from '80s movies.
If organizers of the Conservative Political Action Conference aimed to fire up attendees and send them home happy, they could hardly have picked a better closing speaker than the junior senator from Texas.
The affable Cruz laid down a conservative governing agenda, point by point -- leaving, of course, plenty of time for cheering in between. Repeal Obamacare. End corporate welfare. Build the keystone pipeline. Rein in the Environmental Protection Agency. Audit the federal reserve. Halt quantitative easing. Abolish the Department of Education. Expand school choice. Stand with Israel. Stop sending foreign aid to enemies.
Cruz said that the dirty secret in Washington is that conservatives have been winning the argument, and he cited as examples the controversies over drones and the "sequestration" budget cuts.
He mocked the sequester cuts as overhyped, and said President Obama's "scare America tour" reminded him of this scene from Ghostbusters.
"In honor of the sequester, for each of you who went to dinner last night, your meals were reduced by 2.4 percent," he joked. "I can see the looks of hunger and famine in your eyes. Indeed, I don't know how you're possibly still able to stand on 97.6 percent of your dinner. And I'll always be haunted by the sight of Newt Gingrich's emaciated face."
He spoke at length about the GOP filibuster staged by Rand Paul earlier this month over the Obama administration's opaque drone policy. Senator John McCain described the filibuster as a stunt and called the participants "wacko birds." It's a label Cruz seems content to wear.
"I have to admit, when Rand and I first heard that, we thought maybe that was a new kind of drone," he said. "But if standing for liberty and standing for the Constitution makes you a wacko bird, then count me a proud wacko bird."
Perhaps to deflect the speculation about political ambition that inevitably accompanies a gig headlining CPAC, Cruz himself noted that he was only sworn in 10 weeks ago. He has already drawn buzz as a potential presidential contender, and one who could bridge the gap between Hispanic voters and the GOP.
That day might still be a long way off. But while they wait, Cruz will surely give conservatives plenty to watch in what remains of his Senate term -- all 306 weeks.
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