The Texas Republican senator began the event with a deeply religious and emotional speech, pacing the stage and speaking with the cadence of a preacher, repeatedly rallying the crowd to its feet and jumping into an eager throng of supporters after his address.
But Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal emerged as a surprising star of the conference with an alternately fiery and funny address to the crowd Friday evening, which brought them to their feet for a standing ovation with his closing declaration that “we are ready for a hostile takeover.”
Crowds seemed far more skeptical of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who spoke just after Cruz. While they warmly welcomed Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), he responded with a lecturing speech that earned few applause.
Paul tried to make a case for how his libertarian ideals would mesh with their religious fervor. But his reception to the faithful was tepid, with many skeptical of his seemingly ambivalent comments on abortion earlier this year despite his focus on the issue during Friday’s speech.