When he spoke to the packed ballroom at CPAC on Friday, Sen. Rand Paul emphasized one thing: Liberty.
"Imagine a time when our great country is governed by the Constitution, imagine a time when the White House is once again occupied by a friend of liberty," he said. "You may think I'm talking about electing Republicans -- I'm not, I'm talking about electing lovers of liberty."
That line would have been a slam-dunk for a conference of libertarians, but it drew a loud cheer from the standing-room-only crowd in the room.
In the past, Paul has slipped in his more libertarian views into a more big-tent conservative speech sprinkled in with a few few wise-cracking red-meat jokes.
"What you do with your cell phones is none of their damn business," Paul shouted, as the young people cheered and gave him a standing ovation.
It's natural for presidential hopefuls to fire up their most ardent supporters in this early stage in the process. Paul appeared to be doing exactly that.
It helped that Paul spoke to a friendly crowd. The packed CPAC audience was noticeably different from the ones that filed in to watch other potential 2012 candidates such as Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey on Thursday.
In fact, the usual clusters of Students for Liberty and the Campaign for Liberty activists traditionally at CPAC appeared to ignore the first day of the conference, and showed up for the second day.
The disciplined fans of Paul filed in ahead of time, packing the hall for former Sen. Rick Santorum's speech as well as the speech of the American Conservative Union's Al Cardenas. Campaign props are no longer allowed in the CPAC ballrooms but Paul fans were easily spotted in the crowd wearing red "Stand With Rand" t-shirts and stickers.
Paul's speech Friday represented the coalition he believes will help leverage the Republican party back to victory: Traditional conservative activists that file into these political conferences each year, combined with the large group of young libertarian types that only show up for their favorite liberty-loving politicians.