“Your fight,” Ted Cruz tells viewers of his campaign-launch announcement, “is my fight.” Cruz became the first official entry into the 2016 Republican presidential sweepstakes, eschewing the exploration committee and leaping right into the campaign. His first campaign address relies on distinctly conservative-populist themes, telling potential supporters that the real divide in America is between the people and the Beltway:
The decision to announce this early will have some legal consequences for Cruz, although nothing too dramatic:
As the lone official candidate, Cruz will get extra attention from the media and voters for several weeks.
But after declaring his candidacy, his political operation will face legal restrictions. He will have to file a fundraising report in mid-April, for example, while others will not have to disclose their finances until mid-July.
While undeclared candidates such as former Florida governor Jeb Bush can solicit million-dollar checks for their political organizations, Cruz will not be able to ask supporters for more than $5,400, the maximum contribution allowed for candidates.
Well, directly, anyway. Cruz and his supporters will likely form a PAC to attract those donors, so the difference won’t be terribly profound in a legal sense. It remains to be seen whether big donors will line up for a Cruz PAC, or for that matter a Scott Walker PAC, a Marco Rubio PAC, a Chris Christie PAC, and so on.
In exchange for the added transparency, Cruz gets a head start on the competition — and bragging rights of another sort, too. A candidate running an explicitly populist campaign has to be seen as going directly to the people, and not appealing first to the establishment, whatever that might mean in either party. Cruz makes that motivation clear in the video, running on an anti-Washington platform that the governors will likely also make central to their campaigns. Cruz has been sounding that theme since coming to the Senate (and a good deal before that), but it’s still not a bad idea for a member of the upper chamber to get a head start on everyone else.