“In Texas, gun control means hittin’ what you’re aimin’ at.”
— Sen. Ted Cruz

That reliable applause line was one of many that fired up an audience of more than 400 who came from around the country to hear, meet and question heroes of the conservative movement like Sen. Cruz, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and many less-known leaders. If the reaction from the faithful was any indication, most speakers hit what they were aiming’ at.

PJ Media, along with Heritage Foundation, FreedomWorks and others, helped to sponsor the event, organized by Eric Erickson’s RedState.com. I attended the sessions, interviewed participants, and consumed Texas-sized portions of barbecue. It was a weekend full of laughter, enthusiasm, and serious discussion of issues and values.

It may sound antiquarian or naive, but the annual event shows that there are still a lot of people who harbor a deep love for this country, for her Constitution and for the values that make America great.

Jim Pinnell, a retired financial advisor from nearby Fairview, Texas, probably best summarized why folks spend the time and money to come to RedState Gathering:

“These people care,” Pinnell told me. “Many of us were former Republicans. I think deep down we’re all conservatives. We’re all Constitutional conservatives. We believe in this country. We believe in the rule of law and freedom. And these people preach it and live it.”

Of course, the speculation about the next presidential cycle never stops, and Red Staters had a rich menu of options set before them.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, evangelist of red state principles, enthused about the policies he claims make the big state great — a magnet for business, a factory for jobs, a farmland of opportunity and a refuge for anyone who relishes the sweet aroma of freedom.

Sen. Ted Cruz encouraged brow-beaten conservatives with the “seven victories” he says they’ve achieved.