Confident Performance Highlights Ted Cruz's Strengths
Style: Ivy League debate meets megachurch sermon meets Iowa State Fair chat. No podium, no TelePrompTer, no text, all playing to Cruz’s strength as a personality and an orator. For his existing fans and as a method of targeting new recruits, it was a powerful, confident performance that will make many of the coming announcement speeches by his rivals seem dry and unemotional. The theater-in-the-round staging meant Cruz had his back to at least some of the main TV cameras during several of the event's most rousing moments.
Substance: Lots of anti-Washington and anti-Obama rhetoric but lacking in any programmatic ideas. Those can come in time, but two of the last three men to win the White House (two-termers Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) both included more concrete ideas in their kickoff speeches.
Best moment: A speech filled with applause lines galore (including mega crowd reactions on Israel and the IRS) was trumped by the photo op at the end when Cruz's wife and two textbook-adorable daughters joined him for a stroll around the stage.
Worst moment: Started slow with an extended biographical riff that failed to include enough facts or context to make the family stories tangible to and engaging for a new audience.
Overall: Explicitly religious and unapologetically confrontational. The “imagine” refrain gets Cruz to an optimistic place, but he still lacks an agenda that sets him apart from rivals such as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Sent a notice he’ll compete with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul by talking about privacy and invoking the word “liberty,” and another notice to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush by bashing Common Core. Chose to make the day about letting Cruz be Cruz rather than expanding his terrain. A strong start for a man fighting to get into the top tier.