Ted Cruz Just Auditioned to Be the Right's Bold Leader in 2016, and Conservatives Loved It

The Republican senator received raves from an audience at a policy conference at the Heritage Foundation Monday.

Ted Cruz has already solidified his 2016 agenda. And some conservatives can't get enough of it.

On Monday at Heritage Action for America's Conservative Policy Summit, a two-day policy primer in Washington, the Texas senator and likely presidential contender laid out the points of his platform for the newly sworn in Republican Congress—and urged his colleagues to stick to their campaign promises.

"Let's stand up and lead," he said. "Let's lead with a big, bold, positive agenda, that says to the American people, 'You had a referendum, and you rejected the Obama agenda. There is a better way.' "

His 10-point plan, which ranges from the expected—repealing Obamacare—to the highly unlikely—abolishing the IRS—is his apparent attempt to solidify himself as the premier antiestablishment candidate in 2016. With cheers and "amen"s reminiscent of a gospel church at Heritage on Monday, it was clear that the conservative audience—a near full house—was on board.

Cruz started crafting the message he delivered Monday before last year's election. In a USA Today op-ed in October, he framed the same points as priorities for a Republican Congress. He said Monday that, now that the GOP has a majority, they shouldn't shy away from major policy battles such as the ones he outlined. It's a deeply conservative platform that will likely transition him to a presidential bid.

The summit, billed as "Opportunity for All, Favoritism to None," laid out a distinctly conservative policy agenda in 2016, from cutting "waste" in the federal budget to allowing union workers to receive raises above their negotiated contracts. Former Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, the Heritage Foundation's president, called Cruz and the other congressmen participating in the event "the real progressives in Washington."

On securing the border and stopping "the president's unconstitutional amnesty," Cruz urged his colleagues to take action. "It ain't complicated. We need to do what we said we would do." To control government spending and rein in the federal debt, he advocated the passage of a balanced-budget amendment, arguing that it's "only basic common sense." And on repealing Common Core, he invoked Martin Luther King Jr., telling the audience that "school choice is the civil-rights issue of the 21st century."

"I can think of nothing that would be a greater legacy for Dr. King than for us to embrace across parties, across race, across lines, that we are united in saying, 'Every kid has a right to a quality education regardless of who they are,' " he said.

On the subject of dealing "seriously" with the Islamic State and a nuclear Iran, Cruz brought up last week's fatal shooting at the satirical Paris newspaper Charlie Hebdo, stepping out from behind the lectern.

"Our hearts weep for the journalists wrongfully murdered, for the police officers targeted and murdered, for the Jewish customers at a grocery store murdered because of who they are," he said.

And he pounced on President Obama for failing to attend a unity march for the fallen in Paris over the weekend.

"It is hard to enlist the support of allies when America ceases being a good ally. How sad was it in the streets of Paris, as 40 world leaders walked down the street, absent was the United States. Where was the president? Where was the vice president? Where was the secretary of State?"

It's only a preview of the kind of attacks—geared toward the Obama administration and the GOP establishment—that he'll likely employ in the primaries. And Monday gives an early sense of just how well they may be received.

Correction: A previous verson of this story misstated the organization hosting the event.