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Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, takes the stage for the first Republican presidential debate on Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland.
Andrew Harnik—AP

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz warned a conservative grassroots audience Saturday that many of his Republican rivals are faking conservative credentials in their bids to become the GOP nominee.

Speaking to the RedState Gathering in Atlanta, the firebrand senator cast himself as the only true candidate in a race with people playing the part of “campaign conservatives.”

“I’m pretty sure not a single person in the debate stood up and said, ‘I am an establishment, moderate, squish. I stand for nothing,'” Cruz joked to laughs. “Have you noticed that they run as us! That’s how they run.”

“By the way,” he continued, “they say if you’re actually us, then you’re unelectable.”

Cruz’s message was greeted with rave applause by the audience of nearly 1,000, with multiple interruptions for raucous standing ovations and “Ted, Ted, Ted” chants. At one point he joined the crowd in applause of one of his own rejoinders.

“We’ve got to distinguish between campaign conservatives, who on the campaign trail suddenly discover they are the most conservative soul who has ever lived,” Cruz said, and those like himself.

Engaged in a war of words with his party’s establishment, Cruz assailed his party’s leaders in Congress, accusing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House John Boehner of “playing for the other side.” He went on to blast “the one party, the party of Washington, the McConnell/[Senate Minority Leader Harry] Reid leadership team.”

Cruz also criticized former Republican nominee Mitt Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for calling on him to tone down his rhetoric on the Iran nuclear agreement, saying, “Truth is not rhetoric.”

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