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Sandy • It looked like a scene from the movie "Patton," with the leader standing in front of a giant U.S. flag to address the troops.
And Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a potential presidential candidate and tea party darling, rallied a vast army of Utah Republicans into a cheering frenzy Friday at the South Towne Convention Center as they prepare for political war this election year.
"We are seeing extraordinary threats to our liberty," Cruz said. "I am absolutely positive we're going to turn this country around."
He and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus headlined the three-hour-plus rally with Utah GOP leaders as part of the Western Republican Leadership Conference here this week, a day before the Utah Republican Convention at the same site.
Cruz had more than 1,000 Republicans screaming out replies to a series of questions.
"Can we retake the U.S. Senate?" The crowd yelled in unison, "Yes we can."
They did the same as he asked, "Can we abolish the IRS [Internal Revenue Service]," "Can we repeal Obamacare," and "Can we bring back morning in America," President Ronald Reagan's mantra.
Cruz said the Obama administration is "trying to violate each and every one of our constitutional rights."
For example, he said Obama has violated privacy by spying on citizens. He told the crowd, "Leave your cell phones on. I want to make sure President Obama hears every word we say."
He complained Obama ignores laws he dislikes.
"President Obama is the most lawless president this country has ever seen" by ignoring immigration, drug and welfare laws.
"We need to stand for liberty," Cruz said. "We need to champion growth and opportunity."
If the crowd gets its way, Cruz might be in the White House in 2016. He was told he won the Western Republican Leadership Conference presidential straw poll by with 39 percent of its vote on Friday.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, a close ally of Cruz, said, "God gave us … freedoms. Washington took them away. And we're trying to take them back."
RNC Chairman Priebus told gathered Republicans, "If we could duplicate Utah … we wouldn't have any problems."
He said that in too many states, Republicans only show up during presidential election years a few months before the election but Utah Republicans work hard constantly to identify voters and push their message.
He urged the rally to continue that work. "We are in a battle for freedom in this country. That's what is at stake."
He added, "We're the party of freedom and equality and opportunity. It's the other side that has the shameful history, not us. But we don't talk about it. But it's about time that we do."
"Are we ready to take back the country" Gov. Gary Herbert asked to cheers. "It starts right here in Utah. We are the example for the other states." He added, "We the people, not the government, are the solution to our problems."
"Utah is a net exporter of conservatism and Republicanism," said Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans. "In Utah we do it right, we get it right, because we're on the right."
Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist said, "The left is not made up of friends and allies. It is made up of competing parasites. If we don't let them eat taxpayers, they will cheerfully chew on the guy next to them."
Congressional candidate Mia Love urged work and action, saying, "If you are not going to stand up and make your voice heard, you stand the chance of someone inferior doing it for you and we are not inferior…. We are not going away and we are taking our country back."
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes told a dinner crowd before the rally, "We as the Republican Party are the true party of success. We are the real harbingers of hope because at the core we are the party of true and correct principles, constitutional and conservative principles."
He said those values include "smaller government, states' rights, fiscal discipline, free enterprise, free markets, lower taxes, strong national defense the right to keep and bear arms, protection of life and traditional families."