COLUMBIA, S.C. -- He has spent less than six months in the U.S. Senate, but Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) fueled speculation about his broader national political ambitions Friday night with a coveted speaking role at a state Republican Party dinner in the early primary state of South Carolina.

In a speech designed to rally the state party's most faithful activists, Cruz sharply criticized the Obama administration for "pushing an agenda aggressively to come after our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms."

He thanked the state's conservative voters for helping to stop the Senate from passing any new restrictions despite widespread support for some of the proposals.