Sen. Ted Cruz closed out Saturday the Conservative Political Action Conference, a three-day convention, with a triumphal keynote address. "Something is happening that hasn't happened in a long time: We're winning right now!" he said.
The Texas Republican said that for the last three weeks, conservatives have been winning the political debate in Washington. “We’re winning because of you,” he added to a cheering crowd.
Cruz then focused much of his address on Sen. Rand Paul's 13-hour filibuster on March 7 over the nomination of John Brennan to be director of the CIA.
"To my grave I will owe Rand Paul a debt of gratitude that the first time I spoke up in the Senate I had the opportunity to read [William Barret] Travis' letter from the Alamo," Cruz said, noting that he also read Shakespeare and the opening monologue from the film "Patton."
"As they say in the beer commercial, it don't get no better than this," he added.
Cruz also took time to respond to Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) criticism of him and Paul for the filibuster, in which McCain called them “wacko birds.” McCain on Friday apologized for the remark.
“If standing for liberty and standing for the Constitution means you’re a wacko bird, then count me a proud wacko bird,” Cruz said. “I think there are more than a few other wacko birds gathered here today.”
The conference, which took place at National Harbor near Washington, D.C., wrapped up after three days of panels, conversations and conservative speakers.
Plenty of possible 2016 presidential contenders were on hand, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. But the gathering also featured appearances by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, outspoken conservatives who still carry weight with the party's most passionate voters.
On Friday, Trump stunned some in the room with a dismissive speech attacking left and right. "We're run by either very foolish or very stupid people," he said during his speech. "What's going on in this country is unbelievable. Our country is a total mess, a total and complete mess, and what we need is leadership."
On the ongoing debate regarding immigration reform, the Republican mogul told his fellow GOP members that immigration reform would be a "suicide mission" for the party.
“Every one of those 11 million people will be voting Democratic. It’s just the way it works. And you have to be very, very careful, because you could say that to a certain extent, the odds aren’t looking so great right now for Republicans, that you’re on a suicide mission, you’re not going to get those votes,” he said.
The conference came at a critical time for Republicans, since the Republican National Committee is preparing to release a comprehensive plan next week — dubbed the Growth and Opportunity Project — to help improve the Republican brand.