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Guardian bureau chief David Smith sends another virtual dispatch from CPAC, where Republican senator Ted Cruz just left the stage.

Cruz has joked about his disastrous decision last week to fly to Cancun, Mexico, for a family holiday as people struggled for food and warmth following a snowstorm in his home state of Texas.

Orlando is awesome,” Cruz told CPAC in Orlando, Florida. “It’s not as nice as Cancun, but it’s nice.”

The senator went on to rail against “cancel culture”, coronavirus restrictions in restaurants and the “shrill” and “angry” left in speech that earned laugher and applause. He paid tribute to late rightwing radio host Rush Limbaugh and mixed in references to Saturday Night Live, Star Wars, Star Trek and the Mel Gibson film Braveheart.

“We’re gathered at a time where the hard left, where the socialists control the levers of government, where they control the White House, where they control every executive branch, where they control both houses of Congress,” Cruz said.

“Bernie [Sanders] is wearing mittens and AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] is telling us she was ‘murdered’.” Cruz put a shrill emphasis on the word “murdered” to mock the Democratic congresswoman who has told how she feared for her life during the insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January.

He went on: “And the media desperately, desperately, desperately wants to see a Republican civil war. Liberty is under assault and what are we going to do? I’ll tell you, we will fight.”

Cruz was among the most prominent Senate Republicans who voted to challenge the result of the 2020 election. He issued a warning to members of his own party who want to “erase the last four years” and banish Trump’s “Make America great again” movement.

“They look at Donald Trump and they look at the millions and millions of people inspired who went to the battle fighting alongside President Trump, and they’re terrified and they want him to go away. Let me tell you this right now: Donald J Trump ain’t going anywhere.”

That promise got the biggest applause of his speech. Cruz went on: “The Republican Party is not the party just of the country club. The Republican Party is the party of steel workers and construction workers and pipeline workers and taxi cab drivers and cops and firefighters and waiters and waitresses and the men and women with calluses on their hands who are working for this country

“That is our party. And these ‘deplorables’ are here to say.”

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