NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, essentially confirmed he will run for president in 2016 when he urged reporters to grill every candidate on whether they had chosen principle over politics, “including me.”

Cruz sounded very much like a presidential candidate while speaking to a small group of conservative reporters across the street from the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, on Thursday.

The senator outlined in detail how to beat Hillary Clinton and what kind of candidate the GOP will need to win, a candidate with credentials that sounded a lot like his own.

Cruz described that candidate as a person who had, time and again, chosen principle over politics – a candidate willing to take an unpopular stance if it was based on solid principle.

The feisty Texan, of course, has earned a reputation as someone willing to repeatedly and tirelessly go against both Democrats and establishment GOP leaders in his efforts to repeal Obamacare and stop amnesty.

The key to winning the White House, Cruz explained, wasn’t winning the approval of Washington, but winning back voters who used to vote Republican.

Low voter turnout among evangelicals and blue-collar “Reagan Democrats” cost the GOP the election in 2012, Cruz maintained.

And, he believes, the only kind of candidate that would resonate with those voters would be one who appeals to the grassroots across America, not the Washington elite.

Cruz insists the only way to get crossover voters is to do what candidate Ronald Reagan had done: “Draw a line in the sand” based upon principles, and frame the election as a fundamental choice between liberal and conservative governing philosophies.

The senator noted how Reagan was so successful with that strategy that he was the only president to ever have a type of crossover voter named after him, Reagan Democrats.

And, Cruz maintained, in sticking to his core beliefs rather than pandering to as many voters as possible, Reagan had given “FDR Democrats a reason to cross over.”

“Is there a better way to reignite the miracle that is America?” he asked rhetorically.

Cruz said the one mistake that could still cost the GOP the election would be playing it safe by running another moderate candidate too “squishy” on the issues.

The real litmus test for the best candidate, insisted Cruz, was whether he or she had “stood up to fight on principle” on the most critical issues, such as amnesty, Obamacare, the runaway national debt, Second Amendment rights and the struggle to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Emphasizing reporters should watch what candidates have done more than what they promise, and that actions should speak louder than words, the senator turned to scripture as the best guide of all, noting, “You shall know them by their fruits.”

Cruz said he had three reasons why he was optimistic the GOP will win the White House in 2016.

  • The cyclical nature of elections, which operates “like clockwork.” It should be the GOP’s time because the country is becoming increasingly fed up with Democrats.
  • “Obama’s record is indefensible” and “a manifest disaster.” Cruz said Hillary Clinton will try to run away from Obama’s record, but the domestic issue she is best remembered for is Hillarycare, and Obamacare will be an albatross for her. On foreign policy, Cruz said she owned the disastrous policy of “leading from behind” and that her tenure as secretary of state had left a legacy of a “world on fire.”
  •  The GOP can recast the current perception of the GOP as the party of the rich and the Democrats as the party of the poor. “We have the opportunity to flip the narrative because Hillary embodies the bipartisan corruption of Washington.” Accusing the Washington establishment of becoming “fat and happy,” Cruz forcefully emphasized, “We must fight a populist campaign for working men and women,” and, if the GOP will do that, “We win.”

Cruz described Clinton’s greatest strength as her husband, Bill, because he will try to paint her as a moderate. The senator said, in reality, Mrs. Clinton is every bit as radical as President Obama.

“Her story will be a good one,” he said, because she will try to paint her husband’s era as one of peace and prosperity, and she will promise a return to the 1990s, a time, Cruz said, when Democrats actually were competent.

The senator accused the former secretary of state of taking speaking fees from foreign countries all across the world, saying she embodied the “manifestation of crony-capitalism we’ve seen for decades.”

Not mincing words, Cruz added, “I don’t think the secretary of state should be on the payroll of foreign nations.”

Returning to his prior theme, Cruz reiterated, “The only way to turn the country around is to stand with the people against Washington,” and give the power back to the people. He recalled how establishment Washington hated Reagan as a candidate and how he went over the heads of GOP elite and took his case straight to the people, from where his real power came.

Cruz predicted the GOP establishment will once again try to divide and conquer conservative candidates, so it is imperative that conservatives rally around one, strong candidate.

He also predicted, “Every candidate will say, ‘I’m the most conservative, ever,'” and that, “No one will say, ‘I’m a squishy moderate.'”

A reporter asked, “Jeb Bush?”

When Cruz merely laughed, the reporter said he would take silence as an affirmation.

“I’ll let his words speak for themselves,” the senator deadpanned.

Afterward, one observer merely shook his hand, looked him in the eye and said, “Give ’em hell.”

Cruz nodded and said, “I will.”

Follow Garth Kant @DCgarth

Check out WND’s extensive coverage of the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference:

Jeb Bush replies to booing: ‘I want to be your 2nd choice’

Trump at CPAC: ‘Hillary was the 1st birther’

CPAC crowd chants: ‘President Paul!’

John Bolton: Hillary ‘unfit to command’

Rick Perry: America will survive Obama as it did Carter

Jeb Bush bracing for CPAC walkout

Rubio: Hillary ‘yesterday,’ Obama ‘failed’

Scott Walker ‘wants to make America great again’

Sarah Palin: Obama’s VA ‘killing our veterans’

Jindal pounds Common Core in CPAC speech

Cruz: Hillary ’embodies the corruption of Washington’

‘Next 20 months will be very dangerous’

Christie: ‘I gave up the New York Times for Lent’

Conservatives warned against unprincipled, unproven candidates

Fiorina argues for woman to take on Hillary

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