“Cool, spectacular, a god,” said an onlooker from Cruz’s college debate days.

From The National Journal:

I watched Ted Cruz debate in college. Don’t count him out.

What do you stand for? Ted Cruz was asking me. We were sitting on a staircase in a towering, run-down New York City brownstone, at a college party. It was 1991. What would you fight for? he continued.

I remember thinking: Who asks questions like this? I was 18 and a freshman at Columbia. Cruz was a senior at Princeton.

Like, um, racism? I responded. I mean, against it.

My memory of the conversation is less than perfect all these years later, but I do recall that Cruz held me in a discomfiting gaze and said something about “every American” that was—to my horror—deeply conservative. I asked whether he was a Republican, and he responded enthusiastically in the affirmative. Cruz explained that we all grow more conservative as we age. He was thus on the political vanguard. Why wait to grow old, when you can be conservative now?

Cruz and I were at the same party because we were both college debaters—specifically, parliamentary debaters. For those of us who glommed on to this extracurricular activity, we had a kind of shadow life not apparent to our college-of-record friends. I took classes with my Columbia comrades, I roomed with them, I smoked pot with them—but on weekends, I was with my other friends: my debate friends.