Texas Sen. Ted Cruz couldn't have known the results of the CPAC straw poll before he wrote his keynote address he delivered here Saturday evening, but he could hardly have targeted his message better if he had. The poll results showed an overwhelmingly young and libertarian-leaning crowd, and Cruz spent much of the speech trying to take some credit for Rand Paul's popular filibuster against drone secrecy this month, which Cruz assisted.
Cruz made drones and civil liberties the cornerstone of the speech, using the issue both to take a stand for something he believes in and to hammer President Obama. It played such a prominent role in his speech that one has to wonder if Paul, who won the straw poll just moments earlier, would resent Cruz's attempt to steal a bit of his thunder.
Cruz also relished the opportunity to take a shot at Sen. John McCain, who sharply criticized Paul and Cruz's filibuster, calling them "wacko birds." “If standing for liberty and standing for the Constitution means you’re a wacko bird, then count me a proud wacko bird. I think there are more than a few other wacko birds gathered here today," he said to cheers.
The rest of Cruz's lengthy and wide-ranging speech was fairly conventional conservative red meat. He touched on everything from education (he called school choice "the civil rights issue of this generation") to environmentalism ("You know what I say about lizards? They make dern fine boots") to sequestration (“conservatives are winning right now”).
Later, the speech got personal when he invoked his family's immigrant past. Saying it would have been "unimaginable" for his immigrant father to think his son would ever become a U.S. senator one day, Cruz said his dad was in the crowd and asked him to stand. "I love you, Dad," Cruz whispered as the crowd jumped to its feet in approval.
Bringing it all home, Cruz, who spoke effortlessly as he strolled around the stage, echoed the repetitious style of Obama's speechmaking. "On drones, do we surrender, or do we stand up now? On spending, do we surrender, or do we stand up now? On debt, do we surrender, or do we stand up now? And on the Constitution, do we surrender, or do we stand up now? That, my dear friends, is change we can believe in."
The audience roared, though perhaps not as loudly as it had for Rand Paul, at the end of a long weekend celebrating themselves.