ORLANDO, Florida – Senator Ted Cruz has decided to own it.
Appearing at the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC, just days after being caught fleeing to Mexico for a vacation amid a deadly snowstorm in Texas, Mr. Cruz has tried to shed light on his lack of judgment.
“I have to say Orlando is awesome,” he said opening his speech. “It’s not as beautiful as Cancún – but it’s good!”
Mr Cruz, a potential candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, had been sharply criticized by prominent Democrats for abandoning his voters during a time of conflict. But here the moment made a winning laugh.
Much of Mr. Cruz’s speech went that way, with the Texas senator sometimes sounding like a growl, begging the left and the media to “clear up” on many of the issues that have taken hold. defined America over the past year.
Shortly before Mr Cruz’s speech, CPAC organizers were mocked by the audience when they interrupted the program to implore them to wear their masks. Still, Mr Cruz went ahead by poking fun at pandemic-era rules like wearing masks in restaurants, and he also joked about the protests against police brutality that have spread throughout the country. large cities last summer, some turning violent.
There had been no such protests in Houston, he said, “because let’s be very clear: if there had been, they would have found out what the people of Texas think about the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. ” The audience laughed.
Mr. Cruz, who was scheduled to speak on the “Declaration of Rights, Freedom and the Cancellation of Culture”, offered little positive vision for the future of the conservative movement. His speech reflected the general tenor of the event so far, with other speakers decrying the media and “canceling culture”, amplifying lies about widespread electoral fraud and promising, above all, to “fight”.
But as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis seems to suggest, was the future of the movement. In his brief remarks to kick off the conference Friday morning, Mr DeSantis, another potential candidate for 2024, confessed that the Tories would never return to “the failed Republican establishment of yesteryear.”
“Now anyone can pitch Conservative rhetoric,” DeSantis said. “We can sit down and have academic debates on conservative politics.”
“But the question is,” he added, “when the Klieg lights get hot, when the left comes after you: will you stay strong, or will you go to bed?”
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota will anchor the lineup on Saturday, and former President Donald J. Trump is expected to speak Sunday at 3:40 p.m., his first public address since his departure. office under the cloud of a second indictment.
While Mr. Trump may well tease that he remains interested in running in 2024, the list of other prominent speakers includes many who hope to become the party’s flagship: in addition to Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Cruz, they include Senators Tom Cotton. from Arkansas, Rick Scott from Florida and Josh Hawley from Missouri.
But who doesn’t speak to CPAC this year is as telling as who is.
The most notable absence is former Vice President Mike Pence, who has kept a low profile since Jan.6, when pro-Trump rioters called for his execution.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, another possible candidate for 2024, who served under Mr. Trump as an ambassador to the United Nations and whose absence may signal an attempt to occupy a more moderate lane in the party in the years to come.