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Cruz touts new generation leading conservative movement

NEW YORK -- Tea Party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told New York Republicans on Wednesday night to remain optimistic about the country’s future because a new generation of leaders -- "the children of Reagan" -- have taken over to lead the fight for conservatives.  

Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks Wednesday at a state dinner in New York about the 2012 presidential election and the infamous 47 percent remark made by former Governor Mitt Romney.

“If you sit back and you list who are the brightest stars in the Republican Party, who are the most effective advocates for free-market principles, you come up with names like Marco Rubio, like Mike Lee, like Rand Paul, like Pat Toomey, like Scott Walker,” Cruz said as a man in the audience at the New York State Republican Party dinner yelled his name. 

“You have to go back to World War II to see such a transformation of the people leading the fight, leading the argument for conservative principles, being an entirely new generation of leaders stepping forward.” Cruz continued, describing the men who grew up while Reagan served in office. “In this new generation of leaders, you see the echoes of that same communication, that same love story of freedom, echoing we are right and all of us together are working to communicate that message.”

The outspoken senator from Texas spoke for more than 30 minutes on a variety of topics -- the debt-ceiling battle in Washington, his desire to repeal the federal health-care law, and the need to simplify the tax code and grow the economy.  

“You know, a lot of Republicans have been agonizing why the November defeat turned out the way it did. I am going to suggest that the last election can be explained in 2 words: 47 percent,” Cruz said. “The national narrative of the last election was the 47 percent of Americans who are not currently paying income taxes; who are in some ways depending on government; we don’t have to worry about you. That’s what was communicated in the last election. I’ve got to tell you that as a conservative I cannot think of an idea more opposite of what we believe. I think Republicans ought and should be the party of the 47%.” 

Wednesday night’s speaking engagement in New York City only continues to fuel speculation over Cruz’s future political plans, even a run for president in 2016. He recently traveled to South Carolina to headline a party fundraiser and has been invited to speak at a dinner in New Hampshire this fall -- two important early presidential voting states. Roughly 500 people attended the dinner with nearly $750,000 dollars raised, according the state party’s spokesman.

The invitation to the $1,000-a-plate party dinner notes that Cruz is appearing at the event “only as a featured guest” and “is not asking for funds or donations.”  Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal gave the keynote address at last year’s state dinner, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour spoke in 2011, and it was former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's turn in 2010. 

Several dozen protesters gathered outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel holding various signs opposing the Texas senator’s stance on issues, including immigration and gun control. Some top New York Republicans refused to attend the annual party dinner, because Cruz did not vote for the Hurricane Sandy relief bill after the storm devastated much of the East Coast, including New York.

“I don’t think we should be acknowledging people who are voting against us in our hour of need,” Rep. Peter King (R-NY) told Buzzfeed Tuesday. “Once I found it was him, I decided not to go. I don’t know if I would have gone or not because of scheduling things, but that made it easy once I found out it was Ted Cruz.” When asked prior to the dinner about Rep. King not attending, Cruz told NBC News: “I have not met Mr. King but I think it is unfortunate he couldn’t join us tonight.”