Cruz's personal narrative -- his father is a Cuban immigrant -- has prompted comparisons to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. He told the story of his father's unlikely journey to the U.S. on Friday.
"My father fled Cuba and came to the United States when he was 18. He didn't speak a word of English. He landed in Austin, Texas with no possessions," Cruz said.
"When I was a kid, my dad used to say to say to me all the time, when we faced oppression in Cuba, I had a place to flee to," he continued. "If we lose our liberty here, where do we go? And you know what? That question underscores why everyone is here today standing up to fight for our liberty."
Cruz closed his speech by with questions for the crowd, which, once again, was an attempt to level criticism at the president.
"Can we retake the U.S. Senate," Cruz asked the crowd. "Yes we can," he responded to his own question.
Cruz is a talented orator and energized the crowd, drawing several standing ovations as he spoke. The challenge for him is to channel the national energy he has sparked into a lasting coalition in Texas, where Dewhurst is very well-known, very well-financed and the early favorite. Also a factor in the GOP race: Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, whose personal money makes him a threat.