If Cruz were to win the nomination, a whole new set of potential legal minefields awaits. In some states, an official—usually the secretary of state—has the authority to decide who is eligible to run. If that official declares that he or she reads the Constitution to require a birth on American soil, then a court fight would obviously follow. Or suppose a Democratic presidential elector—those unknown, faceless people who actually elect the President—argues that her chance to win is being diminished by electors pledged to an ineligible candidate. She might well lose her case—that’s my assumption—but she’s got a strong argument that she has skin in the game.
Apart from the merits, there’s a compelling practical case for permitting such challenges at these stages of the contest. Why? Because the absolute, very worst, catastrophically bad time to bring the case would be after the inauguration. Let’s say it’s April 30, 20l7. President Cruz has signed a law defunding Planned Parenthood. The organization, and its clients, bring suit, arguing that the law is void because Cruz does not meet the “natural-born citizen” test. Clearly, Planned Parenthood and those using its services would have standing to bring legal action; they’re obviously affected by that new law. And suppose evidence surfaces that in fact his mom had renounced her U.S. citizenship.
If a court then found that Cruz was not entitled to be President, every action he’d taken—every law signed, every executive order issued, every appointment made—would be null and void. Hello, chaos.