“I think what you’ve got is someone who is going to be a real intellectual leader in the Senate. The closest parallel I can think of is Paul Ryan in the House of Representatives. He’s a real intellectual leader. He’s not just a factional leader,” said George. “There’s going to be some big constitutional questions to address. … And he might be one of the few U.S. senators who’ve read Tocqueville.”

Elliott echoed that sentiment, saying that Cruz carries himself with a calm assertiveness that separates him from many politicians who wave the tea party flag.

“Folks would say the tea party is rough about the edges. You can’t say that about Ted. He’s incredibly committed to the cause, but he’s smooth, polished and very articulate,” Elliott said. “It’s clear they’ve already identified him as someone who is going to join the leadership core in the U.S. Senate, perhaps for the next 20 or 30 years.”