DENVER — Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz was the star speaker Saturday at Colorado Christian University’s fourth-annual Conservative Western Summit — the first-term firebrand rallying the roughly 2,000 Republican voters here with an aggressive and unapologetic speech celebrating the power of the far-right message and detailing a plan through which he hopes to rewrite the nation’s tax code, abolish the IRS and sink the “Obamacare” health-care reform law by leading a move to starve it of funding during its crucial implementation phase.
“We have to be focused on growth,” he told the packed Hyatt ballroom. “That means remaking the tax code… abolishing the IRS.
“People tell me that Obamacare is killing the lower classes, gumming up the engine of growth. But we can end that… Over the next 60 days in Washington, we have the opportunity to defund Obamacare.”
The lines drew standing applause and came with a plea for supporters to bury lawmakers in messages that would force them out of business as usual to take bold stands during negotiations over budget matters essential to resolve in the fall. Lawmakers must agree by October to continue funding the government and by November to raise the debt ceiling to pay for money already spent. Cruz asked conference attendees to send the word “growth” to a prepared text number as a way to signal support and he sent them to a website, DontFundIt.com, where they can sign on to bolster his “defund Obamacare” campaign.
The speech came in the wake of reports that signal wariness among some Capitol Hill Republicans to continue fighting battles many constituents see as already lost and in ways repeatedly portrayed in the mainstream press as embittered and stubbornly obstructionist. Senator John McCain, looking to effect comparatively smooth negotiations in coming weeks, is now heading up what has informally been called the “compromise caucus,” a name with likely less positive than negative connotations.
Cruz’s sweeping proposals are sure to draw guffaws among politicos grown accustomed to similarly dramatic proposals advanced by “Tea Party lawmakers.” The mainstream media will describe the ideas as quixotic, self-serving, amateur and unserious — as just more distraction from the far-right fringe.
But Cruz told The Independent that that was all to be expected from members of the “Beltway class.”
“I’m not concerned with right wings and left wings. I’m more concerned with the American people. I’m concerned with what they think. I believe there’s great national center-right consensus in this country,” he said. “People see a $17 trillion debt. There’s bipartisan consensus that that has to be addressed. There’s overwhelming frustration with politicians who don’t get that.”
“Around the country, jobs and the economy are the top priority. In the Senate, we spend virtually no time talking about those things. It’s not a priority… Politics is just a battle of personalities.”
Cruz was speaking in the conference green room at a breakneck pace without pause, his knees unbent, feet planted firmly apart at shoulder width.
“We’re stuck in what I call ‘The Great Stagnation’ — 0.9 percent growth per year. So tax reform, abolishing the IRS, defunding Obamacare — these are only extreme goals inside the Beltway. But in the heartland? Should we listen to K-Street, the entrenched DC elite?
“People across the country see Washington as a strange place. People there act surprised when you go there and you do what you say you were going to do… My agenda flows from the values of the American people.”
Political conferences like this one — presidential convention-style love-fests on the right and left — seem to be growing more common with each passing year, and the invited guests here delivered motivational speeches littered with comfortably invigorating buzzwords and phrases: “freedom,” “liberty,” “take back our country.”
But under the rock-star speeches and in huddled hallway conversation hummed an echo of the shellacking Republican candidates took in 2012. Those losses mostly came as a shock to party voters like the ones gathered here who have been bombarded for years with lopsided messages from partisan media outlets and blustery local and national pundits — men like campaign consultant and formerly frequent Fox News figure Dick Morris, one of Saturday’s speakers.
Cruz told his audience to remain unbowed. “Stand by your principles,” he said. It was a message shared by almost all the speakers but one Cruz delivered perhaps most effectively.
Indeed, a running theme was that national talk of rethinking the conservative message and “rebranding” the Republican Party was a misguided and weak approach to winning voters. Better would be to stick strong to traditional values and boost the conservative cause by conveying the shared political vision more powerfully. Unequivocal dedication to free-market solutions, the Second Amendment and conservative Christianity, the speakers argued, will make GOP candidates attractive, generate enthusiasm and win expanded support.
In Colorado, the conference acted as a sort of re-introduction to center stage of the Tea Party, which generated a strong following and great enthusiasm in 2010 but lost steam over ensuing years and has drawn some of the blame for the ongoing stumbling performance of the state’s Republican party. Tea Party organizations played a prominent role here as sponsors and as speakers. Four Republican candidates for governor addressed the crowd, as did Republican members of the state legislature.
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Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, speaks at the podium as he concedes the presidency on November 7, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images)
2008 -- John McCain
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., gestures to his supporters, while his wife, Cindy looks on during his concession speech at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
2004 -- John Kerry
Former Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) stands on stage with his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry after delivering his concession speech at Faneuil Hall on November 3, 2004 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
2000 -- Al Gore
Democratic presidental candidate Al Gore leaves the voting booth after casting his vote at Forks River Elementry School in Elmwood, Tennessee on November 7, 2000. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
1996 -- Bob Dole
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1992 -- George H.W. Bush
U.S. President George Bush concedes the election on Nov. 3, 1992 after losing to President-elect Bill Clinton. (BOB DAEMMRICH/AFP/Getty Images)
1992 -- Ross Perot
U.S. independent presidential candidate Ross Perot delivers his concession speech on November 3, 1992 after Democrat Bill Clinton won the presidential election. (Photo credit should read PAUL RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
1988 -- Michael Dukakis
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1984 -- Walter Mondale
Defeated presidential hopeful Walter Mondale addresses supporters at night, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 1984 at the St. Paul Civic center, conceding to President Reagan. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
1980 -- Jimmy Carter
U.S. President Jimmy Carter concedes defeat in the presidential election as he addresses a group of Carter-Mondale supporters in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 1980. (AP Photo/Barry Thumma)
1976 -- Gerald Ford
President Gerald Ford speaks in the White House Press Room in Washington on November 3, 1976, conceding defeat to Jimmy Carter. (AP photo/ stf)
1972 -- George McGovern
Sen. George McGovern and his family in Sioux Falls, election night, Nov. 7, 1972 after he was defeated by Richard Nixon, and conceding the election. (AP Photo)
1968 -- Hubert H. Humphrey
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1964 -- Barry Goldwater
A contact sheet of Republican senator Barry Morris Goldwater of Arizona concedes the 1964 presidential election to President Lyndon Johnson at a press conference held at his campaign headquarters at the Camelback Inn, Phoenix, Arizona, on November 4, 1964. (Photo by Washington Bureau/Getty Images)
1960 -- Richard Nixon
Vice President Nixon points to home-made sign at airport as he arrives in home state to cast his ballot on Nov. 8, 1960 in Ontario, California. (AP Photo)
1956 -- Adlai Stevenson
Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts talks with Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson on August 12, 1956 in Chicago. (AP Photo)
1952 -- Adlai Stevenson
Movie Actress Piper Laurie (left) is wearing a donkey head beauty spot on her cheek as she chats with Gov. Adlai Stevenson of Illinois, Democratic presidential nominee in Portland on Sept. 8, 1952. (AP Photo)
1948 -- Thomas Dewey
Dewey ran as the presidential candidate of the Republican Party in the elections of 1944 and 1948. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
1944, 1948 -- Thomas Dewey
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1940 -- Wendell Wilkie
Wendell Willkie, rehearses a report to the nation at a New York City radio station on Oct. 26, 1942. Willkie was President Roosevelt's personal representative, and his Republican opponent in the 1940 presidential elections. (AP Photo/Murray Becker)
1936 -- Alf Landon
Gov. Alf M. Landon, G.O.P. presidential nominee, voting in Independence, Kansas on Nov. 3, 1936. (AP Photo)
1932 -- Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover is shown leaving Madison Square Garden, Oct. 31, 1932 in New York City, after delivering his major campaign address before a crowd estimated at 22,000. (AP Photo)
1928 -- Alfred E. Smith
Governor Alfred E. Smith speaks in New York on Nov. 2, 1928. (AP Photo)
1924 -- John W. Davis
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1920 -- James M. Cox
Democratic candidates for the presidency and vice-presidency of the United States, Governor James M Cox and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882 - 1945) are seen at the head of a nomination parade in Dayton, Ohio on Nov. 1, 1920. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
1916 -- Charles Evans Hughes
1912 -- Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt during the progressive campaign of 1912. (AP Photo)