Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) fired up the conservative crowd at Friday's Values Voter Summit, painting the fight over ObamaCare as a battle for basic freedom and calling on Republicans to redouble their efforts to end the program.
Speaking without notes and walking around the stage, Cruz warned that the Obama administration wants to "violate every single one of our Bill of Rights" and attacked establishment Republicans for refusing to take up the fight.
"We can't keep going down the road much longer. We're nearing the edge of a cliff, and our window to turn things around I don't think is long — I don't think it's 10 years," he said.
"If there is one overall strategy in Washington it is risk aversion," Cruz said, mocking the Republicans who didn't join his fight. "We went over their heads — to the American people."
He asked the crowd to keep up the fight, dismissing media reports
that his push to defund ObamaCare was hurting the Republican brand. He
joked that The New York Times was already writing about Hillary Clinton's second term.
"The greatest trick the left has ever played is to convince conservatives we cannot win. The media will tell us that believing in free market values, believing in the Constitution, believing in freedom are extreme views. It is a lie," he exhorted to cheers.
Cruz has fast become one of the most polarizing politicians in the country, criticized by both Democrats and Republicans as the driving force behind the government shutdown. But his speech Friday — and the crowd's electric response — made it clear the anti-establishment conservative base is firmly behind him.
The Values Voter Summit is an annual draw for potential presidential candidates. This year's lineup includes Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) sent a video address as he stays on Capitol Hill to work on a compromise to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling.
Cruz fired back against any compromise, to the crowd's delight.
"None of us know what's going to happen on this ObamaCare fight right now. In my view the House of Representatives needs to keep doing what it's been doing, which is standing strong," Cruz said to cheers.
The speech was interrupted more than a half-dozen times by protestors, which Cruz dismissed as worried Obama backers.
"It seems President Obama's paid political operatives are out in force today," he said as one was escorted from the room. "And you know why? Because the men and women of this room scare the living daylights out of them."