Ted Cruz is onstage at CPAC. As is his custom he has declined to stand behind the lecturn and is instead pacing methodically around the stage with a microphone pinned to his blue striped tie.
“To turn this country around it will not come from Washington; it will come from the American people,” he yells. “And so I will ask every one of you if you will join our grassroots army. Take out your cellphone and text the word ‘Constitution’ to the number 33733. Let me give that to you again! Take out your cellphone and text the word ‘Constitution’ to 33733!”
His voice booms throughout the ballroom—speeding up, slowing down, soaring and winding down to a faux-whisper at carefully chosen intervals, like a televangelist or someone trying to sell you a set of steak knives and a Bedazzler at 3 a.m. on an infomercial.
“It will be each of you empowering and energizing we the people that turns the country around!”
A text to 33733 received this automated response: “Together let’s bring bold, clear leadership to America tedcruz.org. Text STOP to end or HELP for help. Msg&Data Rates May Apply. No more than 30 messages/month.”
More than any other likely Republican presidential candidate, Cruz is a salesman.
He understands what his audience wants to hear, and he knows how to say it sweetly.
“This is a room full of patriots,” he says to hoots of approval. “The men and women who are gathered here today are gathered to fight for freedom in our country. And the men and women of CPAC are going to play a fundamental decision in how we turn this country around! The men and women gathered here today are going to play a crucial role in reigniting the miracle of America.”
Cruz begins to talk faster and louder.
The pace and energy of his speech has picked up so much, in fact, that it sounds as though he could start talking in tongues at any second.
“How do we do that, how do we win, how do we bring back the miracle that is America? #1. We reassemble the Reagan coalition. #2. We bring together fiscal conservatives and social conservatives and national security conservatives. We stand strong for economic growth, but we also stand for life and marriage. We defend the constitutional rights, but we also stand and lead the fight against ISIS and a nuclear Iran.”
The crowd is eating it up, and Cruz is beaming.
And now, Cruz is joined onstage by Fox News’ Sean Hannity for a short interview—a part of a new format introduced by Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, CPAC’s sponsor.
Schlapp told The Washington Post that the new format would be more challenging for speakers.
“The Q&A gives them a chance to be spontaneous and to make news—not in a negative way but in a positive way,” he said. “I think it makes them nervous that the format has changed. It could be high-risk, but it could also be very high-reward.”
“HELLOOOOOOO CPAC!” Sean Hannity shouts. “Give it up for Senator Ted Cruz!”
Hannity and Cruz now engage in verbal masturbation, with Hannity repeatedly giving Cruz chances to differentiate himself from his Republican rivals and attack President Obama.
What does Cruz say to his GOP critics?
“The central point is we shouldn’t be listening to Washington. We should be listening to the American people!” And what does Cruz think America should do about ISIS? “We need a commander in chief who will actually stand up and defend the United States of America!”
Doing his best game show host impersonation, Hannity tells Cruz to get ready for the “lightning round!”
Finally, Hannity is going to ask some tough questions.
“What could the top five agenda items of a President Cruz—what would they be?”
Cruz, who one imagines has been addressing himself as “President Cruz” in his bathroom mirror every morning since early childhood, was more than ready with a well-thought-out, if puddle-deep list.
And the crowd goes wild.
“#1. Repeal every blasted word of Obamacare!”
“#2. Abolish the IRS—take all 125,000 IRS agents and put them on our Southern border!”
“#3 Stop the out-of-control regulators at the EPA
“#4 Defend out Constitutional rights! All of them!”
“#5 Restore America’s leadership in the world as the shining city on the hill!”
Hannity says he has just one more question for Cruz. Perhaps he’s saved the most challenging for last.
“Why does Ted Cruz love America?”
It’s a tough one, for sure, but Cruz is prepared to answer it: “This country is the greatest country in the history of the world! It has been a haven for freedom.”
He remembers his father, who fled from Cuba to this shining city on the hill.
“If we get back to this, brighter days are ahead!”
Remember to text “Constitution” to 33733 to support freedom, but mostly to support Ted Cruz.
Text within the next hour and Cruz will repeal Obamacare and give you a Bedazzler; Text within the next half-hour and he will send IRS agents to patrol the U.S.-Mexican border and you get a second Bedazzler free! But text now and Cruz will restore America’s greatness and personally Bedazzle a pair of your favorite jeans.