Politics & Policy

Ted Cruz’s Really Big Show

(Justin Sullivan/Getty)
The Texas senator's NRA address is polished, crowd-pleasing, and occasionally quite loud.

Texas senator Ted Cruz was the last major speaker at the National Rifle Association’s Leadership Forum on Friday – an indicator that NRA convention organizers knew attendees would stay in their seats until the end to hear him. Cruz’s dynamic speech, and the attendees’ enthusiastic response, offers one more example of how the senator whose style often irked his colleagues is riding that style to top-tier status in the opening weeks of the 2016 GOP presidential campaign.

In the Senate, it’s harmful to look too ambitious, too quick to publicly fight the party’s leadership, too eager for the spotlight, too full of confidence and boisterousness when speaking to an audience. But all of that works — at least for a while — as a presidential candidate.

It always helps when a speaker can begin with good news, and Cruz informed the NRA Convention attendees that he had just come from Fort Hood, where it had just been announced that all of those wounded and killed in the 2009 shooting attack would be awarded the Purple Heart. This led to the political speech equivalent of an easy lay-up, knocking around the Obama administration’s asinine instinct to classify the attack as an incident of “workplace violence” instead of terrorism.

RELATED: More NRA Convention Coverage

Scott Walker, Rick Santorum, and other candidates are attempting to emulate Cruz’s no podium, no teleprompter, no-notes, earpiece-microphone speaking style he showcased at the 2012 Republican convention. (The speech was nothing special, but Cruz’s ability to deliver it, entirely from memory and naturally while walking back and forth upon the stage, worked.)

When Ted Cruz speaks to an audience like this one, he’s in his natural element, entirely comfortable. Cruz doesn’t scream at his audiences, per se, but he doesn’t always use his inside voice. Every sentence has particular words and phrases that Cruz delivers with a roaring emphasis: “The only way we will TURN THIS COUNTRY AROUND is if we GET MILLIONS OF CONSERVATIVES to STAND UP and say WE WILL TURN BACK to FREEDOM and the CONSTITUTION.”

It’s a performance, inclining from the stage whisper to the reverberating boom and descending back again. “If Hillary Clinton and the liberals want to try to take away our Constitution, to them I say, COME AND TAKE IT!” Then, once the applause subsides, softly, “These are our values, this is who we are.”

#related#To rock-ribbed conservatives eager for red meat, Ted Cruz’s role in the government shutdown and other high-stakes fights that didn’t turn out so well for Republicans is a strength, not a weakness. His message going forth is going to be, hey, I fought when no one else was willing to do it.

“Everyone opposes Obamacare, the question is when have you stood up and fought Obamacare?” Cruz asked. “Every candidate is going to say they oppose amnesty. Great! When have you stood up and fought to stop the president’s illegal and unconstitutional executive?”

Ted Cruz left the stage to whistles and a standing ovation. He may win the nomination or fall short, but it’s certain that the Texas senator is going to relish his big role in the spotlight for a long time.

RELATED: More NRA Convention Coverage

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