Cruz's venue was a fundraising dinner for the Harris County Republican Party, one of the forces that turned Texas red, and the crowd spread out before him was as big as any he'd attracted in Nevada. Across town, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) had just finished a fly-in rally. After Cruz spoke, Ben Carson was slated to give his own dinner remarks.
But neither of them got to talk after Texas's governor and a smattering of other elected officials made the sale for them. Cruz, the third Texan to become a presidential contender this century, began by explaining that the suddenly competitive primary would be a great thing for the state.
"In prior years, Texas’s primary was so late it didn’t get to impact the race," he said. "If we nominate a candidate who gets clobbered by Hillary Clinton in November, if we nominate a candidate who will not be faithful to the Constitution, we risk losing everything."
Dinnerware clanked and Republicans made stealthy trips to a bar while Cruz delivered his stump speech about what he could get done in the first weeks of his presidency, from the repeal of the Affordable Care Act to the federal investigation of Planned Parenthood. When he came to a promise to "rein in the EPA," the applause was muted.
"Really, the EPA, Harris County," said Cruz. "Wow, $35 oil, people get quiet!"
A dramatic reading fared a little better than the stump. Cruz remarked that it was the anniversary of William Barret Travis's letter from the Alamo, the "Victory or Death" letter. He recited it.
"Those words of William Barret Travis embodied the spirit of Texas," said Cruz, "and today, just like the brave heroes of the Alamo, We are besieged by a government that is undermining our basic constitutional rights. And I believe now, just as in 1836, it will be the people of Texas who stand together and say: Enough is enough!"