Promising that "help is on the way," Texas Sen. Ted Cruz got a warm reception and a standing ovation from conservative activists at the annual CPAC conference in National Harbor, Maryland, Friday evening.
Taking a page from Ronald Reagan's playbook, Cruz promised a second "morning in America."
Cruz's appearance came a day after a raucous GOP presidential debate in Detroit, in which front-runner Donald Trump defended himself against charges of flip-flopping and fought off renewed personal attacks from Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Trump, who was originally slated to address
Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday morning, announced Friday he would not be attending the event because of a scheduling conflict.
Cruz poked fun at Trump for not coming, saying he wondered if Trump heard that perhaps "conservatives would be here," or "maybe libertarians or young people would be here."
A small group of attendees tried to start a chant for Trump during Cruz's remarks, but they were drowned out by boos from the rest of the audience.
Cruz stated there were three major issues to be decided in the election - jobs, liberty and security.
On jobs, Cruz emphasized rolling back taxes and regulations, particularly on small business. He said the "incredible economic growth" that would result from his plans would enable him to increase defense spending.
On liberty, Cruz took another swipe at Trump. "It's easy to talk about making America great again," he said, "but do you understand the principles that made it great in the first place?"
Cruz focused on the Supreme Court, which currently has a vacancy as a result of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Cruz pledged he would nominate only "principled constitutionalists" to the high court and chided Trump for saying in Thursday night's debate that court nominations require flexibility.
"That's a D.C. code word for 'get ready to stick it to you,' " Cruz said.
In a question and answer session with Fox News commentator Sean Hannity, Cruz said Super Tuesday, in which he won three states to Trump's seven, was "a clarifying moment," adding that only his campaign had a track record of being able to beat Trump in the primaries.
Cruz warned that talk of a possible broken GOP convention in July was a sign that the Republican political establishment was "in a fevered frenzy."
Warning that if party leaders rigged the convention to anoint a candidate they preferred over one who had been through the primary process, Cruz said "it would be a disaster. It would cause a revolt."
He did have some kind things to say about the other candidates who have dropped out of the race, encouraging their supporters to join his campaign, and offering an incentive to do so.
"All of them are good, honorable people," Cruz said. "Any of them would be a natural for the cabinet or leadership."