Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas offered different styles and messages Friday to attendees of the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C.
Paul stood still behind his pulpit at the conference for social conservatives and denounced attacks on Christians abroad. Tens of millions of radical Muslims, he said, are waging a "War of Christianity."
By contrast, Cruz, the son of a pastor, confidently paced the stage as he addressed the conference, preaching to the GOP choir about the plight of Christians in the U.S. military and under the 2010 health care reform law.
Their speeches may serve as a preview for the 2016 Republican presidential primaries. Both men are weighing runs.
Paul, speaking with the authority of a well-traveled evangelist, rattled off a list of recent attacks against Christians in Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, Guinea, Tanzania, Cameroon, Indonesia and Libya, among other countries.
"The media describes the killings as sectarian," Paul said, "[but] a worldwide war on Christians is being waged."
In his speech, Paul advocated withholding foreign aid from governments that imprison Christians - such as Pakistan, where alleged blasphemy is punishable by death.
"We must defend ourselves, make no mistake about it," he added. "This war on Christians is not just abroad, it came to Boston this year."
The anti-drone and generally anti-war Paul pointed to Afghanistan and Iraq – where he said "we've helped [establish] new Islamic regimes" – to argue the U.S. response to aid Christians should not be direct military action.
In Syria, he said, "we are now arming rebels that are allies with al-Qaida [and] American tax dollars should never be used to prop up a war on Christians."
Moderate Muslims around the world, Paul suggested, "must weed out and destroy the sadists."
Cruz's speech, just before Paul's, featured at least six episodes of heckling by immigration reform advocates.
"This is an administration that seems bound and determined to violate every one of our Bill of Rights," Cruz said. "I expect them to start quartering soldiers in people's homes [in violation of the 3rd Amendment] soon."
The first-term senator, who gave a 21-hour speech in the Senate against Obama's health care law last month, warned "we're nearing the edge of a cliff... we have a couple years to turn this country around or we go over the cliff into oblivion."
Cruz accused the various immigration hecklers of being sent by Obama.
"It seems President Obama's paid political operatives are out in force today," he told his second heckler, "because the men and women in this room scare the living daylights out of them."
To his third heckler, he asked: "Is anybody left at the Organizing for America headquarters? I'm actually glad that the president's whole political staff is here rather than actually doing mischief in the country."
The fourth heckler prompted Cruz to offer to debate 100 "rabid" Obama supporters in exchange for Obama sitting down with 10 conference members.
"You know what's striking, actually, in the course of this speech we've heard more questions than President Obama has allowed in the last year," he quipped.
Clearly enjoying the messaging springboard provided by the hecklers, Cruz told his sixth interrupter, "How scared is the president? What a statement of fear!"
After describing gloom and doom for the U.S. under Obama – punctuated by shouts of "tyranny!" from the audience – Cruz told attendees that in 1978-79 Americans were also downcast, but soon were uplifted by the presidency of Ronald Reagan. It's unclear if he was casting himself as the next Reagan, whose persona many Republicans see as a guide in selecting candidates.