NASHUA, New Hampshire — With a speech peppered with pop culture references, Texas Senator Ted Cruz brought a crowd of college students to their feet on three occasions Friday night at the New England Freedom Conference.
The first 2016 presidential candidate is the most prominent conservative speaking at the free enterprise-themed weekend hosted by conservative activist organization Young America’s Foundation.
Cruz, who paid homage to Ronald Reagan and Ron Paul for their ability to connect with young audiences, tailored his speech to the youthful crowd.
Of the 200+ in attendance at the Radisson Hotel Nashua, most were students.
The 44-year-old Texan presented himself as relentlessly positive in the face of intense and often nasty opposition. In his introduction, Reagan Ranch director Andrew Coffin compared the onslaught of attacks waged against Cruz to what Ronald Reagan endured.
Cruz laughed off the negativity. “Reagan dealt with things with a smile,” he said.
There were alot of smiles in the ballroom. The GOP Senator worked his comedy chops with anecdotes about his family and life in politics. At one point, he suggested that millennials punch their parents in the nose for voting in politicians who brought about destructive policies.
The speech relied heavily on pop culture references–HBO’s “True Blood,” “Twilight,” guerrilla street art, and stand-up comic Paula Poundstone were all namechecked during the course of the evening–and Cruz humorously described viral Facebook and Twitter strategies that scored him political victories.
He said that his 2012 Senate campaign “nakedly and deliberately” mimicked Barack Obama’s 2008 primary tactics that lead him to victory over Hillary Clinton. Cruz gave little doubt that, like Obama, he intends to use grassroots motivating techniques and social media engagement to win the GOP’s nomination. “Grassroots guerrilla” tactics were the keys to Barack Obama’s success—and his own.
At times the speech veered to serious political topics:
The junior Texas Senator criticized the Democrats for the rapid rise in the national debt—he noted that it has gone up $8 trillion since his six-year-old daughter was born—as well as the beleaguered jobs market and staggering student loans for young people.
Toward the end of the evening, when asked about national security, the Senator called out potential general election opponent Hillary Clinton by name: “The Obama/Clinton foreign policy is a manifest disaster. Our enemies don’t fear us, our allies don’t trust us.”
He went on to describe the Obama administration as the “most antagonist administration to Israel” in the history of the USA. The crowd erupted in applause after Cruz declared his steadfast support for Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Several shots at the GOP political establishment were well received by the conference-goers. “Republicans in Washington D.C. have accepted Obamacare as a permanent feature,” he declared to a smattering of moans.
Cruz cited Republicans in particular as being unwilling to change polices and strategies that could jeopardize their own job security.
The 2016 hopeful described himself as a disrupter: an agent whose modus operandi is to question accepted norms and upset the natural order of things.
The Hispanic American of Cuban descent made it clear that he hopes to establish an identity as an upbeat conservative, steadfast in his principles, often at odds with the Republican Party, and using a playbook patented by Democrats.
With the clarion call “change the rules in Washington” neatly summing up his extensive remarks, Sen. Ted Cruz generated an enthusiastic response from the Young America’s Foundation New England Freedom Conference audience.
The conference continues Saturday with a full day of speakers and is live-streamed at Breitbart.com.