Ted Cruz Makes It Official

Ted Cruz Makes It Official
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Ted Cruz became the first official candidate of the 2016 presidential cycle Monday, launching his campaign with a tweet just after midnight followed by a sermon-like speech in the morning at the nation’s largest Christian university. 

The Texas senator—who won election to the chamber as an underdog insurgent and has become its most prominent conservative instigator over the span of just three years—kicked off his campaign more in the style of a preacher than a politician, though one who might have had an affinity for a certain John Lennon lyric. 

Wearing a headset microphone and pacing the stage of Liberty University’s arena (packed with students attending a mandatory convocation), Cruz asked the audience to “imagine” what life would be like under a conservative Republican president. 

Such a world would involve repealing Obamacare, establishing a flat tax and abolishing the IRS, along with securing the southern border, said Cruz, who also advocated for Second Amendment rights and against abortion rights and gay marriage. The senator drew significant applause with criticisms of the current administration’s relationship with Israel and its negotiations with Iran over that nation’s development of nuclear weapon capability.  

Cruz also came prepared to battle Jeb Bush, considered an early frontrunner in the GOP primary race and closely associated with the establishment wing of the party, which the Texas senator reviles. Crus pledged to “repeal every word of Common Core,” referring to education standards Bush has championed; more and more states have rejected the standards and the issue has been a source of contention among conservative Republicans. 

Facing a crowded field in which candidates like Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee and others will be competing for Christian conservatives, Cruz decided to jump into the race early, hoping to attract that base of voters with an official candidacy and collecting cash ahead of the month’s-end fundraising deadline. The Texan decided to stake out that turf by launching his campaign in Lynchburg, Va., at the college founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. 

Cruz estimated that roughly half of evangelical Christians aren’t participating in the voting process. “They’re staying home,” he said. “Imagine, instead, millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values.”

Cruz will also be competing with Sen. Rand Paul for similar voters, primarily those aligned with libertarian ideology. During Cruz's announcement speech, Paul took to Twitter to encourage his followers to "Stand With Rand." A group of students wearing red "Stand With Rand" T-shirts were seen standing behind Cruz while he gave his speech. 

Cruz skipped forming an exploratory committee, a phase common among presidential aspirants, and stepped right in, signaling a sense of urgency in a competitive market. The senator, who led an effort to shut down the government over federal funding for the health care law, announced his campaign on the fifth anniversary of the president signing the Affordable Care Act. He asked the audience to “imagine” a new president signing its repeal in 2017. 

“I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives rising up to reignite the promise of America,” he said. “And that is why today I am announcing that I am running for president of the United States,” Cruz said towards the end of a speech that emphasized his own faith experience. 

While Cruz is well known among conservatives, and frequently makes national headlines as a thorn in the side of fellow lawmakers, he is running behind in the polls. The RCP average shows him in eighth place with 4.6 percent of the support.

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at chueyburns@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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