Senator Ted Cruz of Texas was the hands-down favorite of an Americans for Prosperity gathering this weekend, if the number and volume of ovations during the speeches of five presidential candidates who addressed the summit of Tea Party activists was the measure.
At the other end of the spectrum was former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a newcomer to events financed by conservative industrialists Charles and David Koch.
Bush was attending his first national conference of Americans for Prosperity and was greeted with respectful but restrained applause by a group that rose essentially out of Republican dissatisfaction with federal spending under his brother, President George W. Bush.
Cruz, the Tea Party favorite since his 2010 election, sparked deafening cheers in the Columbus Convention Center auditorium even before he took the stage.
During his speech Saturday, he went on to promise to ‘‘repeal every word of Obamacare,’’ and “rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal.’’
Each of Cruz’s lines was met with applause and cheers from the more than 3,000 activists. Bush, who spoke a day earlier, worked hard but earned far fewer cheers from the antitax, economic conservative audience from around the country.
David White of Marietta, Ohio, was unimpressed with Bush. ‘‘He did not articulate any plan for what he intends to do as president,’’ he said. ‘‘He used his time to try and rearrange perception of his record in Florida.’’
Bush did stress his experience during eight years as Florida governor, noting tax cuts, reduction in the state government workforce, and an overhaul in the state’s education system.
Cruz, on the other hand, laid out an agenda that consisted entirely of undoing actions taken by President Obama.
The event is significant because it provides an opportunity for presidential hopefuls to impress the conservative group, which spent more than $30 million in ads against Obama’s reelection in 2012 and has activists, donors, and organizers in 36 states and an operating budget for 2016 of roughly $125 million.
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who can trace his 2010 Senate election to Tea Party support, received hearty cheers, but less robust than Cruz, while taking a more policy-focused approach than Cruz’s more political stump speech.
‘‘The first thing we must do is become globally competitive again,’’ Rubio said. ‘‘That’s why we talk about tax reform. That’s why we talk about regulatory reform.’’
The two-day conference was also an opportunity for exposure for lesser-known candidates such as Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who rank low in national polls among the field of 17 candidates.
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.