NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz declared, "Something is happening that hasn't happened in a long time: We're winning right now!" in his keynote address to close out the Conservative Political Action Conference here. After three days of panels and speeches about what the GOP can do to make a comeback, the idea that no comeback is necessary must have been refreshing to the CPAC attendees. By the end of Cruz's speech, they were on their feet. Of course, that was because he asked them to.
What does victory look like? According to Cruz, it is Sen. Rand Paul's 13-hour filibuster, the sequester, and the vote on Cruz's amendment to defund Obamacare. Only one of those three things has been implemented: the sequester, which was designed to be dumb. The other two failed — Obamacare lives, and John Brennan was confirmed as CIA chief (though Paul did get reassurance that the government won't drone Americans in America).
Cruz listed several goals for Republicans, and some of them seem less doomed.
- "We need to build the Keystone Pipeline." (This will probably happen.)
- "We need to rein in the EPA." (Hard to define victory on this one, but the current administration is Democratic, and thus prone to support environmental regulation.)
- "We need to audit the Fed". (Probably won't happen.)
- "And we need to stop QE-Infinity." (The Federal Reserve said in September it would continue to take action to try to boost the economy while unemployment remains high.)
- "We need to abolish the Department of Education." (Republicans have been talking about this for decades, and it has not happened yet.)
- "We need to champion school choice -- the civil rights issue of the next generation." (Entirely doable for Republicans.)
- "We need to stand with Israel." (Done.)
- "We need to stop sending foreign aid to nations that hate us." (Unlikely.)
Cruz didn't own the room the way Sarah Palin did earlier Saturday afternoon. His speech was far more detailed and focused on policy. But at the end, he had the crowd on its feet. "On drones, do we surrender or do we stand up now? On spending, do we surrender or do we stand up now? ... On the Constitution, do we surrender or do we stand up now?" They stood up. That was a victory for Cruz, but the biggest victory might have been when he asked them to "text the word 'growth' to #33733." That will help build a list of supporters for a 2016 victory.