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By Jerome Corsi and Garth Kant

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., considered a leading candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, drew a sustained standing ovation as he came to the podium at the CPAC annual conference of conservatives before an overflow crowd.

The reception was, by far, the most enthusiastic among speakers that included potential presidential rivals Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J.; and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

Paul said there is “a great and tumultuous battle under way, not for the future of the GOP, but for the future of the country.”

“I’m not talking about electing Republicans; I’m talking about electing lovers of liberty,” he said.

Republicans, he declared, must be “bold in our convictions, or we will be sunshine patriots that cower in the truth and power of our message.”

Paul vowed: “I will be earnest. I will not be equivocating. I will not retreat an inch, and I will be heard.”

He asked the younger members of the audience if they would be “the next generation of liberty lovers” who will “stand and be heard,” drawing sustained applause.

Referring to the NSA spying scandal and other controversies regarding privacy, Paul said the founders, who “risked everything” to establish the rights of American citizens, “would have called out to the president that they would not be spied upon, saying, ‘We will not trade our freedom for security – not now, not ever.’”

He said anyone who has a cell phone is under surveillance.

“I believe that what you do on your cell phone is none of their damn business.”

He called it a profound constitutional question.

“Can a single order put all cell phones under surveillance?” he asked. “The Constitution is clear: A single warrant for all cell phones, generalized warrants that don’t name an individual and that seek millions of records of millions of individuals is unconstitutional.”

‘Great battle’

He said there is a “great battle going on for the heart and soul of America.”

Paul urged conservatives not to forget that the Fourth Amendment, prohibiting searches and seizures without probable cause, is as important as the Second Amendment, guaranteeing the right to bear arms.

“Will we stand,” he asked, “and say, ‘We are free, and no man – no matter how well intentioned – will take this freedom away from us?’”

Paul drew laughter when he asked, “How will history remember Barack Obama?”

He said history “will record his timid defense of liberty.”

When Congress passed legislation allowing indefinite detention, Paul noted, Obama signed the bill and said he would not use it.

“A great president would have taken pen in hand and vetoed this abomination,” Paul said. “A great president would have protected us from the prying eyes of the NSA. A great president would have proclaimed, I will not abide it and the Constitution will not abide it.”

Alluding to Obama’s handling of the heath-care law and his “recess appointment” of judges when there was no recess, Paul reasoned that “if the executive branch can amend legislation, if it can declare that Congress is in recess, then government becomes nothing short of tyranny.”

He cited the French social philosopher Montesquieu, who warned that when the executive usurps the legislative authority, a nation is “on the verge of tyranny.”

Paul said Obama is paving the way for future harm by destroying the checks and balances that restrain each branch of the government.

“Progressives believe the Constitution is whatever the majority says it is,” Paul said. “Progressives believe our rights are what the majority believe they are. But are rights are inherent, they are inseparable from our person; they come from our Creator, and no government can take them away from us.”

He directed his comments to Obama: “Mr. President, we will not let you shred our Constitution. We will fight you in the courts and at the ballot box.”

Paul emphasized it’s impossible to have prosperity without freedom.

“This is not a message for the rich versus the poor,” he said. “We believe all men are created equal and that all can exceed – that brings not only great prosperity, but also great generosity.”

Paul said it’s “going to take a national revival of liberty” to turn the country around.

“Our freedom is in our DNA and in our founding document – it is based on a plan that restrains the government, not the liberty of the individual,” he said.

“Let’s take a stand – I took a stand – I filibustered,” Paul said.

“I took a stand – I sued the president.”

This moment, he concluded, is “decidedly not a time for the faint of heart.”

“Let us stand together for liberty.”

Earlier today, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, in a rousing, animated speech, declared it’s “time for a little rebellion on the battlefield of ideas.”

Anti-Obama filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza also unveiled a new trailer for his upcoming film, and in a panel, a leading attorney representing tea-party groups disclosed that IRS official Lois Lerner was interviewed by the Department of Justice

Thursday, after Sen. Ted Cruz’s call to dismantle Barack Obama’s agenda, including a complete repeal of Obamacare, CPAC speakers touched on similar themes, envisioning 2014 as a prime opportunity to seize on Democrat failures and articulate an alternative vision for the country.

Cruz was followed by Sen. Mitch McConnell’s call to fight Obamacare with “everything we’ve got,” Rep. Paul Ryan’s belief that the GOP is primed for victory and the Democrats “will overreach,” Sen. Tim Scott’s call for “responsibility,” Sen. Marco Rubio’s conviction that the world is on the verge of a “new American century,” Sen. Mike Lee’s exhortation to conservatives to”get to work,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s call to mirror his state’s performance-based evaluations of teachers and Donald Trump’s urging to “make America great again.”

Meanwhile, Cruz told WND after his speech that social issues should not be taken off the table in the 2014, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton called Obama the nation’s “biggest security threat” and Chris Christie showed that despite major political setbacks in recent months, his star power has not dimmed.

WND’s coverage of CPAC:

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