Photo is a com­bi­nation of Gage Skid­more’s photo of Marco Rubio and Jamelle Bouie’s photo of Ted Cruz. Photos used under cre­ative commons license.

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.”