"Good impressions are pretty good, but actually bad impressions are even better," Sen. Ted Cruz said Friday at a Texas Public Policy Foundation conference, admitting that his staffers cringed every time he tried to do an imitation of someone he was quoting.

Cruz smiled and then channeled his Senate predecessor, Phil Gramm, who introduced Cruz at the conference.

"This will pass over my cold dead political body," he quoted Gramm, imitating his deep Texas drawl -- referring to a quote from Gramm in the early 1990s, crediting him with successfully killing then-first lady Hillary Clinton's public insurance proposal.

That sums up Cruz's political strategy for the upcoming year, which promises to be just as controversial as the first. The second-year senator from Texas previewed his political agenda in the speech: Fight President Obama.

It's the same aggressive tone Cruz brought to the Senate in his first year, as he challenged his colleagues on gun control and immigration, but most of all on Obamacare, arguably Obama's biggest political challenge of the year.

"Of all of the bad things that have happened, I think one of the most dangerous is the consistent pattern of lawlessness from this president and this administration," Cruz said, pointing out that Obama could "pick and choose" which parts of the law he would enforce.

Cruz cited Obama's decision to delay Obamacare for businesses and adjust the law for members of Congress among the legal abuses enacted by the president and his administration.

After making several jokes at the president's expense, Cruz got serious.

"Look there is a level at which all of this is ludicrous, but there is another level at which all of this is incredibly dangerous and terrifying," he said solemnly as the audience applauded.

Cruz alluded to the president's frequent disregard of the rule of law in favor of his own political agenda, comparing it to that of foreign dictators.

"If we have a system where the president can pick and choose which laws to follow, at utter whim and discretion, then the whole rest of our constitutional structure becomes superfluous," he said.

Cruz's approach is starkly different from that of his Republican colleagues, who began 2014 by striking a softer tone.

It turns out that more than a few political advisers saw the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's call for a "War on Poverty" as perfect timing to highlight their own soft-hearted political solutions.

Senate colleague Marco Rubio, R-Fla., began the year with a widely-covered address highlighting better solutions for addressing poverty.

"America is still the land of opportunity for most, but it is not a land of opportunity for all," Rubio said in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute. "If we are to remain an exceptional nation, we must close this gap in opportunity."

House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va. began the year highlighting school choice and charter schools as a solution to poverty.

"School choice is the surest way to break this vicious cycle of poverty and we must act fast before it is too late for too many,” Cantor said at the Brookings Institution after visiting inner city schools around the country.

Former vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also launched his own poverty-themed agenda at the beginning of the year and gave a speech Monday about economic mobility at Brookings.

"I used to come to Brookings and crack these jokes about coming out of the incubator, the cocoon of the conservative think tank area, but this is like my fifth time in this very room I think, so I don't think I can crack those jokes any more," Ryan joked during his speech at the center-left think tank. "I feel comfortable coming over here these days. Don't hold it against me, though."

Meanwhile Kentucky Sens. Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell joined Obama at the White House on Jan. 9 as he promoted "Promise Zones," which conveniently designated eastern Kentucky for more federal spending.

"I am supportive of the president's ideas," Paul said politely in response to Obama's plan. "What he said was uplifting and encouraging."

McConnell, the Senate GOP leader, sounded a cranky note about the president's "War on Coal" before endorsing the idea.

"[T]he Promise Zone designation is a step in the right direction, nonetheless,” he admitted.

With all that soft talk, Obama began 2014 sounding optimistic about his ability to bring more Republicans to the table, launching a populist push for extending unemployment benefits and raising the minimum wage.

"Who knows, we might actually get some things done this year," Obama said with a grin during his first press conference of the year.

Behind Obama's politically popular policy prescriptions, however, is a plan to wield more executive power than ever with the addition of former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta to his political team.

It's exactly what Cruz was complaining about.

And if Ted Cruz has his way, it'll be over his dead political body.