Ted Cruz fanned the flame of speculation that he is already eying a future presidential run by appearing in South Carolina on Friday night to address a gathering of Republicans in the early primary state.
The freshman Republican senator used his appearance at the South Carolina Republican Party’s Silver Elephant Celebration to speak of what he calls “opportunity conservatism” and praise the state’s politicians, especially former Sen. Jim DeMint, who recently resigned to take over a conservative think tank in Washington.
“Let me tell you right now, I would not be in the United States Senate were it not for Jim DeMint,” Cruz said, praising the former senator for supporting conservatives in Senate primaries like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Utah Sen. Mike Lee.
Before the event, organizers emphasized that they invite the caliber of Republicans who run for president to the event. Ronald Reagan, John McCain, Newt Gingrich and Marco Rubio have all spoken at the traditional dinner. It was held at the State Fairgrounds in Columbia.
“The Silver Elephant Celebration has a storied tradition of bringing the brightest stars in the GOP to South Carolina — many of whom have run for national office,” said Chad Connelly, the chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party. “Reflecting on that tradition, we felt that Sen. Ted Cruz was a compelling choice.”
Before being elected to the Senate in 2012, Cruz served as solicitor general in Texas. He has only been on Capitol Hill for just over 100 days, but Cruz has already developed a reputation for being outspoken in trying to shape the political debate in the Senate, from guns to Obamacare to drones to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s nomination hearings.
“I’ve been arguing for what I call opportunity conservatism, which is that every principle, every policy we think about, we talk about, should focus like a laser on opportunity, on easing the means of ascent up the economic ladder,” Cruz told the crowd Friday night.
“The greatest engine of prosperity and opportunity and wealth creation the world has ever seen is the free market system in the United States of America,” he said.
Admitting that many Republicans “are demoralized about November 2012,” Cruz argued that “things can change quickly” and predicted Republican victories in future elections.
“I am convinced with your help that we’re going to take back the Senate in 2014,” he said.
By giving speeches like this, observers note that Cruz seems to be trying to build a national profile that would allow him to potentially run for president in the future.
But this week, Cruz took to Facebook to respond to the growing speculation, calling it “wild.”
“It is a continued source of amazement that the simple fact that I am working hard with like-minded Senators to keep my promise is seen as newsworthy and cause for wild speculation,” he wrote.