Senator Ted Cruz of Texas announced on Monday morning that he would run for president in 2016, becoming the first Republican candidate to declare himself officially in the race.

Linking the determination of his immigrant father with the resolve of the founding fathers and his own faith in “the promise of America,” Mr. Cruz spoke at length about his family and his faith as he laid out a case for his candidacy.

“God’s blessing has been on America from the very beginning of this nation, and I believe God isn’t done with America yet,” Mr. Cruz said before thousands of cheering students here at Liberty University. “I believe in you. I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives rising up to re-ignite the promise of America.”

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By becoming the first candidate to declare himself officially in the race, Republicans briefed on his strategy said, Mr. Cruz hopes to reclaim the affection and attention of those on the party’s right wing who have begun eyeing other contenders, particularly Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin…

Mr. Cruz and his advisers, recalling his path to victory in Texas, saw more opportunity than risk in dispensing with any exploratory phase: In 2012, Mr. Cruz entered what was initially a crowded Republican field more than a year before the Senate primary and slowly earned support from conservative activists through intensive travel and on the strength — and uncompromising nature — of his rhetoric.

He now plans on pursuing a similar presidential campaign, portraying himself as not only the most doctrinaire candidate, but as the one most willing to fight for the principles of the conservative movement

“It’s not necessary for him to show that he’s the most conservative, but that he’s the most courageous conservative,” [Kellyanne Conway] said.

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Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have had any motivation to listen to the public. Cruz went to D.C., but did not become a part of D.C. as so many have.

There are critics on the right who say, “name one thing Ted Cruz has done for America. What policy position has he gotten passed.” The measure of a conservative should be not what has he gotten passed, but what has he stopped.

Cruz, in the Senate, has not stopped everything, but he has stopped some things. He has helped lead House members to stop other things. He has shown himself a leader of the conservative movement. He has shown himself willing to stand athwart history and yell stop. He has shown an appreciation for the idea that not every man need go to Washington to get things done. Some must go to stop things from getting done.

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Texas Senator Ted Cruz gave his audience at Liberty University on Monday one concrete-sounding reason why he could win the presidency. Too many evangelical Christians, he said, were “staying home” and handing presidential elections to Democrats. “Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values,” said Cruz, to one of many bursts of applause…

White Protestants voted overwhelmingly for Romney in 2012 but made up 39 percent of the electorate, a retreat of 3 points from 2008, according to Pew Research. People of faith overall voted in smaller numbers. And Pew estimates that more than a quarter of Americans are evangelical Protestants, meaning a one-point swing in their voting habits could represent more than 800,000 votes. With lower voter turnout, though, it could also represent fewer than 250,000 votes.

Cruz was acknowledging that. His implicit promise to evangelicals was that he’d give them something to vote for, in a way that no GOP nominee had since George W. Bush, and none truly had since Ronald Reagan.

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Perhaps the most interesting thing about Cruz’s speech, though, is how much it reminded me of Senator Barack Obama. I’m obviously not the first person to compare these two ambitious, young, Ivy-educated freshmen senators who spent roughly 15 minutes in the U.S. Senate before deciding to run for president. But that’s not what I’m referring to. Obama’s message of “Hope and Change” was always premised on convincing voters who were desperate for something new and authentic to buy into the notion that he could change politics, unite the country, and appeal to his political enemies’ better angels. There was no rational reason to believe Obama could get this done, of course. He had no track record of governing or of transcending the old model of politics. People who bought into his cult of personality simply believed it would happen — that he was special and that change would come to pass simply by virtue of the force of his personality and the majesty of his soaring rhetoric

The suggestion is that America is at a similar crossroads today. And that there is a very special man who can magically restore America, just like Washington, Roosevelt, and Reagan did.

That man, you might have guessed, is Ted Cruz. At least according to Ted Cruz.

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Barack Obama and Ted Cruz both have Ivy League credentials, with degrees from Harvard Law School. They both have two young daughters. They both served in the Senate for only two years before defying conventional wisdom and declaring their lofty White House ambitions…

As Cruz swept onto the stage here Monday, smiling and waving before an audience of 10,000 students at Liberty University, the scene carried the feeling of a rally from those early Obama days. He made his announcement inside the Vines Center, an arena where the Liberty Flames play basketball, in a setting made for television (not to mention future television commercials.)…

Whether or not Cruz becomes the 45th president of the United States, much less wins the Republican nomination, is hardly the only point worth considering about his candidacy. With those words, and with his point-by-point call for conservative purity, Cruz illustrated perhaps his greatest influence on the race: He is the candidate who can pull the debate to the right, to remind party activists they have no obligation to follow history and go the establishment route.

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If most conservative officials, operatives, leaders and pundits won’t take him seriously, voters won’t either. The elites would rally to defeat such a candidate if he ever seemed poised to win.

I can already hear the conservative, grass-roots activists complaining about this establishment, elite-driven model of Republican primary politics. I can hear them promising to prove the mainstream news media, and every one of Mr. Cruz’s detractors, wrong. But much of the Republican rank-and-file has reached the same conclusion as the party’s elite, whether they’ve done so because of elite signaling or by some other means.

Just 40 percent of Republicans in an NBC/WSJ poll last month said they could see themselves supporting Mr. Cruz, while 38 percent said they couldn’t. That two-point margin in the plus column was the second worst among the elected officials who are thought to be major contenders for the nomination. Only Chris Christie fared worse…

The point isn’t that Mr. Cruz’s low level of support precludes him from winning the nomination. But he clearly hasn’t entered the race as the favorite of conservatives, and there isn’t much reason to assume that he will eventually become the favorite. The fight for conservatives will be hotly contested. Viable candidates with a far more plausible shot to win the nomination, like Scott Walker and Marco Rubio, or even Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry and Mike Huckabee, will all be competing for these voters. Mr. Walker’s early surge is a telling reminder that the conservative grass roots aren’t just interested in finding an arch-conservative, but in finding a conservative who can win.

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Cruz is likely far too extreme ideologically to win the nomination. The Republican party has a habit of nominating relatively moderate candidates (see John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012). That’s especially the case when the party has been out of the White House for more than one term. A Cruz nomination wouldn’t just break this streak; it would throw it off a 100-floor balcony and drop a piano on it.

Cruz is more conservative than every recent nominee, every other candidate who mounted a serious bid in 2012 and every plausible candidate running or potentially running in 2016…

Four national live interview polls taken since December have tested Cruz in a matchup against Hillary Clinton. In each one of these polls, Cruz has done the worst of any of the possible 2016 Republican nominees. In fact, he’s trailed by an average of 5 percentage points more than the average Republican tested: CNN/Opinion Research Corp (at 6 percentage points), Marist College (at 5 percentage points), Quinnipiac University (at 3 percentage points) and Selzer (at 5 percentage points).

This brings us to our third and final point: In addition to GOP politicians and the overall public, Cruz has been deemed unpresidential by Republican voters, too. In an average of the three live interview national primary preference polls taken over the past month, Cruz is in eighth place with just 5 percent. Can Cruz overcome this low percentage by being people’s second choice? I doubt it.

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The current leadership in the Senate Republican caucus is why someone of Cruz’s considerable talent is needed there. By leaving the Senate to establishmentarians (Mitch McConnell), former Democrats (Richard Shelby), octogenarians (Chuck Grassley), and incumbents unable to garner majority support in a primary (Thad Cochran, Lamar Alexander), Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul are abandoning the urgent work they are in prime positions to carry out, that of restoring the Senate to its proper role.

Cruz could likely hold his seat in perpetuity while remaining a strong advocate for limited government. The powers of incumbency along with the dogged work ethic Cruz showed in his first election would make him a formidable candidate even in the worst of cycles. At age 44, Cruz could easily serve 30 years in the Senate before considering retirement. If Cruz focused on being a conservative foil to Senate institutions like Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vermont), class of ‘74, or Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia), the longest-serving senator in history, he could play an important role in the resurgence of liberty and a return to Constitutional government…

Instead of using his talents to further the conservative cause by restoring a functional Senate that works as a voice of the states instead of special interests for the party in the majority, he has chosen to seek the office currently most antithetical to limited government and constitutional order. His choice is a missed opportunity for conservatives, and we should hope he and his fellow presidential aspirants in the Senate recognize the folly in abandoning that body to its current fate.

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[F]or all his obvious talent Cruz’s rhetorical style frankly makes my hair curl a little. Striking a pose that lands somewhere between the oleaginousness of a Joel Osteen and the self-assuredness of a midwestern vacuum-cleaner salesman, Cruz delivers his speeches as might a mass-market motivational speaker in an Atlantic City Convention Center. The country, he tells his audiences rather obsequiously, will be saved by “people like you” — people, that is, who are willing to text the word “Constitution” to the number 33733, and to contribute generously to his political action committee. America, meanwhile, is held to be in grave trouble, and it needs to be rescued, NOW. There is potential everywhere, Cruz notes; if only we could tap into it — if only we would believe…

Watching Cruz this morning, one understands how she must have felt. Sure, the man is probably sincere. Certainly, he is one smart cookie. But to my skeptical ears, there is always a touch of condescension in the pitch — a small whiff of superciliousness that gives one the unlovely impression that Ted Cruz believes his listeners to be a little bit dim.

In practice, this can be lethal. Late last year, I attended an event at which both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were scheduled to speak. Going in, the audience seemed infinitely more excited about the latter. Rubio, I was told, was finished — a “traitor” and a “turncoat.” Cruz, meanwhile, was the golden boy. At the drinks reception afterwards, however, a good number of minds seemed to have been changed. “Rubio talks to you,” one attendee explained; “Cruz seemed to lecture.” This is an anecdote, I will grant. But it reminded me of the age-old observation that it is one thing to be the smartest man in the room, but that it is quite another to behave as if you know it.

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I come from the secular wing of the right, and when it comes to God, I’m with Laplace: I have no need of that hypothesis. But I can understand why others think they do need it, and I’ll admit that I found this story moving. Young Ted Cruz clearly grew up believing God is what brought his family back together and made a big positive difference in his life.

But he continued with stories that emphasized work and striving: his wife’s work in a bakery; his story about learning from his father about life under dictatorship in Cuba and about the importance of Constitution; his own story of taking two jobs as a teenager to pay his way through college…

Cruz is campaigning as a self-made man speaking on behalf of a nation of people who identify with work, striving, self-reliance, and self-improvement. This was the most personal, moving, and effective part of his speech. It is likely to be the most effective part of his campaign—and a good reason not to discount him in the general election. It’s also something the Republican Party needs, especially if it is going to have a nominee whose name is not “Bush.”

That’s the new thing I learned in Lynchburg. Ted Cruz will be a fierce and effective competitor for the political niche as a representative of the striving American common man. Which is probably the most important niche Republicans will need to occupy in 2016.

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Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s entry into the Republican primary for president could bring headaches for two likely rivals from Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush.

For Bush, Cruz will draw even more attention to Common Core, the education standards that have become a flashpoint for conservative activists…

For Rubio, Cruz could attack him over his role in writing the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill — legislation Cruz voted against and denounces as amnesty…

“I’m getting emails from people all across the states asking me to tell Cruz he has their support,” said Laura Zorc, a leading Common Core critic in Florida. “He should not be taken lightly because he has the support of the grass-roots.”

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First: Ted Cruz matches up with the activist base better than any other significant candidate in a long time. I don’t think people outside of that base really understand how powerful Cruz’s appeal is to the populist energized conservative voter, which is of course just a faction of the right, but is a sizable faction. Cruz’s critics need to hope that he is limited to this faction, and incapable of appealing outside of it. But that may not prove to be the case, particularly if Cruz is able to cut into the appeal of, say, Walker for pro-business types, Huckabee for social conservatives, Paul for libertarianish Republicans and the like. And he doesn’t just match up with them on policy, he matches up with their brashness, their yearning for someone who loves the taste of blood in his mouth. Cruz was the only guy on the stage at the Iowa Ag gathering to basically give the whole room the finger on ethanol. His words are sweet music to the conservative right which has wanted a capable fighter for so long. Here’s a guy who’ll fight the lion and the midgets at the same time.

Second: To the degree that this is a nomination battle about who has done the most to fight the Obama administration about two key issues – amnesty and Obamacare – Ted Cruz can claim that mantle and beat his opponents over the head with their stances on these topics…

And third: While the “purest” conservative candidate rarely wins, that assumes a divided right. Cruz may end up running in a field where the other candidates are scrabbling over support from the Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street, and establishment dollars while he could corner the populist talk radio base. Cruz’s critics need to hope that Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul and others horn in on this area of the right – because if the election includes a crowded field outside of that faction – including Bush, Christie, Huckabee, Walker, Rubio, and say Kasich – that only serves to help Cruz’s case…

He’s Sonny Corleone, and he’s here for a fight.

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