Posted at 9:25 p.m. on March 4
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Ted Cruz wasted no time tearing into Donald Trump’s decision to skip his planned weekend appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference, opening his speech Friday to sarcastically offer a set of explanations for his rival’s impending absence.
“I think somebody told him Megyn Kelly was going to be here,” the senator from Texas said, building on a torrent of criticism he’s leveled against Trump in recent weeks. “Or even worse, he was told there were conservatives who were going to be here. Or even worse, he was told there were libertarians who were going to be. Or even worse, he was told young people were going to be there.”
The gathering of several thousand conservatives, who offered Cruz a raucous standing ovation several times during his remarks, ate up the senator’s criticisms. When a small number of Trump supporters tried to start chanting the GOP front-runner’s name, they were quickly drowned out by a chorus of boos.
Trump unexpectedly announced Friday that he would skip his scheduled speech here Saturday morning, opting instead to hold a rally in Kansas. He holds a strong edge in the delegate count over both Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and many Republicans now believe the only way to stop him from winning the nomination is to deny him it at a contested convention this July.
But if the delegate math isn’t kind to Cruz, his supporters here didn’t seem to care. The senator offered an impassioned denunciation of Obamacare, Hillary Clinton, and – of course – Trump, including mocking the billionaire candidate’s admission during Thursday’s debate that he’s proud to be flexible about his agenda.
“Let me tell you everyone at CPAC, ‘flexible’ is code word in Washington, D.C., that they’re getting ready to stick it to you,” Cruz said.
Cruz was more reserved when asked by Fox News host Sean Hannity what he thought of Mitt Romney’s criticism of Trump during a speech Thursday. Romney, Cruz said, is a “citizen” “entitled to express views.”
“I come from a different place than Mitt does, but the concern Mitt is expressing is the concern” shared by a lot of Americans, Cruz said.
Asked by Hannity about Clinton and the investigation into her private email server, Cruz started cracking jokes.
“We’ve never had a general election convened at Leavenworth,” Cruz said, referring to the federal prison in Kansas. “But this year might be a first.”
Hannity quipped that he hopes the prison had “orange jump suits.”
“Well, Sean,” Cruz retorted, “orange is the new Democratic blue.”