Ted Cruz's Winning Weekend
As has been reported, Rand Paul indeed won the Washington Times CPAC straw poll.
Ted Cruz, however, was the big winner coming out of the conference -- and the weekend. No doubt about it.
I say this because just minutes after some 750 mostly young CPAC straw voters had given Paul his numerical win and outsized vocal salute, a pair of very significant speeches -- talks that will live on virally for much longer and to far more voters -- changed the entire atmosphere of the weekend. In started in the very hall where Paul’s win was announced, as Sarah Palin electrified the room and conservatives everywhere with a presentation that heaped praise on Cruz and “Cruz control” tactics – while virtually ignoring the junior senator from Kentucky.
This not so subtle pro-Cruz flavoring was not lost on dozens of red-clad Rand Paul supporters, who walked out of the hall during Palin’s speech. Paul’s supporters had spent the weekend decrying social issues, intervention in the Ukraine, and Cruz’ shutdown filibuster. Palin spent the first few minutes of her talk praising all of the above, using the filibuster as the centerpiece of her thesis and the foundation of her entire talk, even resorting to a Cruzlike use of Dr. Seuss.
Say what you want about Palin and her speeches, but there is no doubt that they are very carefully crafted and have been for years. In the past, she has very clearly laid to rest the notion of third-party fantasies. Saturday night, she made it clear that the direction conservatives should take is Cruz control.
To clarify, this is not to say that Palin has any antipathy towards Paul. It’s clear she thinks very positively of him. It is equally clear that she prefers the tactics and moreover, the emphases of Cruz. She is more worried about ObamaCare than drones and she thinks the filibuster was a move of genius that has been validated by history. This would not be considered an endorsement of any candidate for 2016 necessarily, but it was clear that the Cruz message was her prescription for the 2014 midterms.
A little later Saturday evening, across town at the annual Gridiron Dinner, Cruz himself impressed those from all over the political spectrum with a stunning and at times very funny speech that skewered many of his critics and adversaries with a rapier wit. Politico’s Mike Allen, no fan of Cruz or his filibuster tactics, said Cruz “crushed his speech” and that “even Dems said he knocked it out of the park.”
And while an endorsement from the Politico and the Democrats is normally an indictment for a Republican, understand that Cruz did not win this praise by being Democrat lite. That may be how John McCain or Lindsey Graham get praise from the left, but that’s not at all how Cruz rolls.
Far from it. Cruz went hard core, eviscerating former Florida Governor Charlie Crist by referring to himself (Cruz) as the anti-Crist. He devastated GOP establishment figures who have criticized him in the past, including McCain, who Cruz bragged “this week has only once demanded an apology from me.” He also went after a favorite of the liberal media, Elizabeth Warren, by saying that by her standards he (Cruz) is an Algonquin Indian -- a jab that also left a mark on establishment figures floating the notion that Cruz is really a Canadian citizen.
Of course, President Obama was not immune to Cruz’ sharp attacks either. “We are still a nation of laws,” Cruz said. “You just have to check with Barack Obama every day to see what they are."
These remarks at the Gridiron Dinner appearance capped off what would be considered, by Washington standards, a homerun appearance. Cruz’s conservative philosophy will never win over the elites, but his Gridiron performance validated his credibility. He was clearly the hit of the evening, dwarfing all other speakers. This success, along with remarks that Palin had made earlier at the National Harbor Gaylord Hotel, make Cruz the weeks’ biggest winner.