- Blog Post
- Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.
Someone had to be first. When it comes to the 2016 presidential campaign, that person is Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). Yesterday, he formally announced that he is running for president. Cruz’s rise to national prominence has been meteoric. He was first elected to the U.S. Senate in November 2012 after never having held statewide elected office in his home state of Texas. If Cruz makes it to the White House, he would match President Barack Obama in taking just four years to go from senator to president. Cruz would also accomplish something unprecedented in American political history: he would be the first person born in Canada to become president.
Name: Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz
Date of Birth: December 22, 1970
Place of Birth: Calgary, Canada
Religion: Southern Baptist
Political Party: Republican Party
Marital Status: Married (Heidi)
Children: Caroline (6) and Catherine (3)
Career: U.S. Senator from Texas (2012- present); Solicitor General of Texas (2003-2008); Director of the Office of Policy Planning, Federal Trade Commission (2001-2003); Associate Deputy Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice (2001); Domestic Policy Advisor, 2000 Bush-Cheney Campaign
Campaign Website: https://www.tedcruz.org/
Twitter Handle: @tedcruz
Cruz first broke the news that he was throwing his hat into the presidential election ring just after midnight on Monday in a truly twenty-first century way: he tweeted.
I’m running for President and I hope to earn your support! pic.twitter.com/0UTqaIoytP
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) March 23, 2015
Later on Monday, Cruz opted for the more traditional campaign announcement: he spoke to an estimated ten thousand people at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. Cruz had many reasons for picking the university that the late Dr. Jerry Falwell established. Liberty is the largest Christian university in the world, and Cruz hopes to win evangelical votes. Cruz certainly gave his campaign announcement a religious bent by advocating Christian values and emphasizing the nation’s religious roots:
The revolutionary idea that this country was founded upon, which is that our rights don’t come from man. They come from God Almighty. And that the purpose of the Constitution, as Thomas Jefferson put it, is to serve as chains to bind the mischief of government.
In a shout-out likely to resonate with Tea Party activists, Cruz also noted that his speech came on the anniversary of a speech that ended with one of the most memorable lines in American history:
Two hundred and forty years ago on this very day, a thirty-eight year-old lawyer named Patrick Henry stood up just a hundred miles from here in Richmond, Virginia and said, 'Give me liberty or give me death.' I want to ask each of you to imagine, imagine millions of courageous conservatives, all across America, rising up together to say in unison 'we demand our liberty.'
Liberty—the principle, not the university—featured prominently in Cruz’s speech, which you can watch or read online. In a nutshell, Cruz plans to campaign on limited government, personal freedom, and Christian conservatism.
Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada, and he held Canadian citizenship until he formally renounced it last year. While Cruz wasn’t born on U.S. soil, most constitutional scholars believe he meets the Constitution’s requirement that “No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution shall be eligible to the Office of the President” because his mother was born an American citizen. That doesn’t mean, however, that opponents might not try to suggest there is an issue.
Cruz cites his family history as his inspiration—and a testament to the American Dream. His mother was a Delaware native born into a working-class Irish and Italian family. She became the first member of her family to earn a college degree and eventually became a computer programmer. His father, now a pastor, was beaten and imprisoned in his native Cuba for protesting the Batista regime. He fled Cuba for Texas in 1957. He took a job as a dishwasher for 50 cents an hour and eventually earned a college degree.
Cruz attended Princeton as an undergraduate. While on the campus that gave us Presidents James Madison, Woodrow Wilson, and John Kennedy—JFK abandoned Old Nassau for Harvard Yard after his freshman year—he picked up national and international accolades for his debating prowess. He then went to Harvard Law where he was a primary editor of the Harvard Law Review. His classmates at both Ivy League universities describe him as intelligent, intense, and competitive.
After law school, Cruz clerked for Chief Justice William Rehnquist. He subsequently worked for George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign, and then served in two posts in the Bush administration. In 2003 he was appointed Texas solicitor general, the youngest person in the country to serve in that post. He held that job for five years, and he was very good at it. He argued before the U.S. Supreme Court nine times and wrote more than eighty Supreme Court briefs. Those are impressive numbers. His successor says, “He was and is the best appellate litigator in the state of Texas.”
Cruz has been a senator for two-plus years. He was long shot to win the post. The person everyone figured would succeed Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson was Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. But Cruz, drawing on Tea Party support, beat Dewhurst in the primary. The Washington Post called it “The Biggest Upset of 2012.” The unexpected victory made Cruz the first Hispanic senator from Texas and just the third Hispanic in the Senate—Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) are also of Cuban descent.
Cruz quickly made his name in Washington with his no-holds-barred opposition to the Obama administration. He championed the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, leading a twenty-one-hour-long Senate filibuster that included a reading of Green Eggs and Ham. That effort eventually culminated in the sixteen-day partial government shutdown in 2013 that played poorly with most Americans. Repeal of Obamacare will likely be a central part of his campaign.
Cruz stands to the right of the Republican establishment as well as to the right of many of his likely competitors for the GOP nomination. He argues forcefully and repeatedly that Republicans who abandon pure conservative principles don’t win elections. So expect Cruz to pursue the Tea Party conservatism that won him a seat in the Senate. He wants his campaign to be a “grassroots army” of Americans looking to turn the country around.
Cruz used his speech at this year’s CPAC conference to reaffirm his conservative views and to deride those GOP candidates who lean toward the political center. He certainly isn’t afraid to antagonize other politicians, including fellow Republicans. He told CPAC that the “the biggest divide we have in this country is not between Republicans and Democrats, the biggest divide in this country is between career politicians in Washington and the American people.” So, yes, Cruz is trying the time-honored, and bipartisan, tactic of pitching himself as an outsider to Washington’s ways, even if he has spent more time in the nation’s capital than most Americans.
Cruz prides himself on his knowledge of the Constitution and constitutional law. You argue with him on both topics at your peril. Like many staunch conservatives, he thinks Democrats are undermining the Constitution with their attacks on the freedoms of the first amendment and the right to bear arms. He favors a simple flat tax that would allow Americans to “file their tax returns on a postcard” and abolishing the IRS. He opposes the Common Core, which likely GOP contender Jeb Bush favors, and supports school choice. He opposes gay marriage (and now wants to leave the decision to the states) and doubts that human activity is warming the planet. One of Cruz’s personal heroes is Ronald Reagan. Ayn Rand is one of his favorite authors. He won’t be the only GOP presidential candidate in 2016 to invoke Reagan and Rand.
Foreign Policy Views
Cruz does not come to Campaign 2016 with extensive foreign policy expertise. His intellectual focus has primarily been on domestic issues. He is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and he has traveled a bit as senator, visiting Israel, Ukraine, Poland, and Estonia among other countries.
That thin foreign policy resume, however, will not stop Cruz from making foreign policy a major theme in his campaign. As you can guess, his overarching argument is that Barack Obama and likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton are to blame for many of the problems the United States faces overseas and that their policy “is disastrous and is undermining America and the world." Just so that no one misses the point, Cruz talks of “the Obama-Clinton foreign policy.” (He also sometimes calls it the “Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy.”) Whatever the label, he doesn’t think much of it:
Unfortunately, right now, as you look across the globe, the failures of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy are manifest…Leading from behind doesn’t work. Leading from behind, we are seeing the consequences when America recedes and hides from the mantle of leadership.
I don’t think it’s the job of our military to engage in nation-building. It is the job of our military to protect America and to hunt down and kill those who would threaten to murder Americans. It is not the job of our military to occupy countries across the globe and try to turn them into democratic utopias.
One of the great ironies here, of course, is that the younger President Bush also ran for the White House insisting he wouldn’t involve the United States in nation building. That’s a useful point to remember: what candidates say they will do in office may not be what they end up doing.
While Cruz doesn’t think that the United States should be nation building, he isn’t calling for American to come home. He has made a point of criticizing likely GOP presidential contender Rand Paul on this score. Cruz says:
I’m a big fan of Rand Paul; he and I are good friends. I don’t agree with him on foreign policy…I think U.S. leadership is critical in the world, and I agree with him that we should be very reluctant to deploy military force abroad, but I think there is a vital role, just as Ronald Reagan did.
Paul, of course, also says he believes in American leadership. He just has a different vision of how it operates.
Cruz laid out his plan for stopping ISIS back in September. You can be the judge as to how much it differs from current U.S. policy. Cruz advocates continued air strikes and coordination with allies in the region. He has said he would support sending in U.S. combat troops only as a last resort:
American boots on the ground should always be the last step, and we need to exercise other steps before that.
He did say that he would consider sending troops if it would stop ISIS “before they succeed in carrying out more horrific acts of terror, before they succeed in murdering Americans.” Cruz has also demanded that President Obama request authorization from Congress to use force against ISIS, which the White House has done, though Congress looks to be far from reaching agreement on what kind of fighting should be authorized and for how long.
Cruz has long supported increasing sanctions against Iran and opposes the administration’s negotiations with the country. Just last week, he reiterated his lack of faith in the talks:
It’s time to tell the American people the truth. These talks are not going to prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, from getting a nuclear weapon…The Obama administration is circumventing the will of the American people, who do not support this deal.
He also thinks that Obama is soft on Russia. Last August, he said that “the Russian bear is encountering the Obama kitty cat.” He has repeatedly called for the United States to arm Ukraine, but only with defensive weapons. He is not calling for a military confrontation with Russia.
Cruz opposes comprehensive immigration reform, especially if it provides a path to citizenship for immigrants who came to the United States illegally. He is proud that his father came from Cuba to the United States legally:
If we allow those who are here illegally to be put on a path to citizenship, that is incredibly unfair to those who follow the rules.
Just like the [Obama] administration did with Iran, right when the [Castro] administration was feeling the maximum pain it throws them an economic lifeline and continues the brutal repression and dictatorship of the Castro brothers.
Cruz has yet to explain, however, how and why his preferred policies toward both countries would yield better results.
More on Cruz
The New Yorker profiled Cruz last year. For a shorter summary of Cruz’s career before the Senate, try the 2012 Washington Post article “Who is Ted Cruz?” Cruz’s Senate website lists legislation he’s sponsored or cosponsored since joining the Senate in 2013.
Cruz hasn’t written a book yet, but rumor has it he has a pretty hefty book advance. If you’re looking for a more hands-on Ted Cruz experience, try Ted Cruz to the Future, a “comic coloring activity book” intended to teach kids about Cruz’s conservative principles.
Cruz has spoken often and widely. He outlined his overall political philosophy in his speech at CPAC this year. In February, he sketched his foreign policy views in a speech at the Heritage Foundation. He has also written op-eds on “The Democratic Assault on the First Amendment,” “Republican Priorities for 2015,” and “The Imperial Presidency of Barack Obama.”
Following Cruz’s campaign announcement, NPR published “What You Need to Know About Ted Cruz.” The Washington Post released “5 Things You Need to Know about Ted Cruz” and “A Brief Guide to What Ted Cruz Actually Believes.” The New York Times broke down Cruz’s campaign chances in “Why Ted Cruz Is Such a Long Shot.”
Rachael Kauss and Alex Laplaza assisted in the preparation of this post.