National Harbor, MD — Of the Republican presidential candidates at CPAC this weekend, Ted Cruz, who won the CPAC straw poll, was the most popular among attending Hillsdale students. The absence of Donald Trump only emphasized the dissatisfaction many attending conservatives felt with the current Republican front runner.
“I enjoyed both Cruz’ and Rubio’s speeches,” junior Timmy Pearce said, “but I feel that Cruz had a more consistent message and captured the audience more effectively. There was huge applause after every statement Cruz made.”
At CPAC, both Rubio and Cruz redoubled their attacks on Trump and Hillary Clinton, which had been featured heavily the night before at the 11th Republican Presidential Primary debate in Detroit.
“Young Americans won’t have a chance if the conservative movement is hijacked by someone who is not a conservative.” Rubio said in a reference to Trump that garnered enthusiastic applause.
Rubio, who won a Super Tuesday straw poll of Hillsdale’s campus, focused on two further themes in his speech: the advocation of free enterprise, and the importance of faith in American life.
“Free enterprise is the only system where you can make poor people richer and you don’t have to make rich people poor.” Rubio said alongside an assertion that rights come from God and not the government.
Many felt, however, that both Rubio’s interviewer, CNN’s Dana Bash, and the fact that he was suffering from the flu negatively impacted his performance.
Throughout Rubio’s post-speech interview, Bash’s questions revolved around how he felt about Trump’s policies. The crowd, in frustration toward Bash rather than Rubio, soon began to interrupt these questions with outbursts of booing and cries of, “talk about the issues.”
“While the crowd was ready to like Rubio, and the crowd cheered for him consistently, I think his flu held back some of his charisma,” sophomore Brant Cohen said.
Touching on topics ranging from religious freedom, the 2nd Amendment, and the U.S. alliance with Israel, Cruz presented a variety of stances, all of which seemed to meet with the crowd’s approval.
Rather than Bash, Sean Hannity conducted the post-speech interview with Ted Cruz, and he managed to avoid the topic of Trump beyond his absence from the conference.
Pearce’s and Cohen’s reactions to Cruz’ and Rubio’s performances were typical of many attending Hillsdale students.
“Cruz showed more of an ability to energize the crowd,” junior Alex Buchmann said. “I could tell that CPAC was full of Cruz supporters.”