Texas Sen. Ted Cruz plans to announce Monday that he will run for president, becoming the first high-profile Republican to enter the 2016 contest.
Cruz has hinted openly for months about his intentions to seek the GOP nomination, and his plan to jump into the race formally was confirmed by a strategist for the first-term Republican senator, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity so as not to preclude the announcement.
While Cruz is the first Republican to declare his candidacy, he is sure to be followed by several big names in the GOP, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
Sen. Paul Rand of Kentucky is expected to announce his candidacy next month.
"It’s smart to start early," Steve Munisteri, who stepped down as Texas GOP chairman this month to become a senior adviser to Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky told The Dallas Morning News.
Cruz will announce his presidential bid — as opposed to forming a preliminary exploratory committee — at an event at Liberty University in Virginia, a source familiar with his plans told AFP.
His choice of the Christian university founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell is a signal that Cruz is staking a claim to evangelical support for his candidacy, the Morning News reported.
"It’s a clear signal, not even a dog whistle, that that is a voting bloc that he thinks he can do well with," Oran Smith, head of the Palmetto Family Council, a Christian conservative group in Columbia, South Carolina, told the News. "He has an evangelical vibe about him … that will probably appeal to a lot of people."
Cruz's advisers say he will aim to raise between $40 million and $50 million for his campaign, and will rely on support from his conservative and libertarian tea party base that voted him in as senator in 2012.
Cruz, 44, has considerable appeal among the Republican Party's base of conservative voters.
Following his election to the Senate in 2012, the former Texas solicitor general quickly established himself as an uncompromising conservative willing to take on Democrats and Republicans alike. Criticized by members of his own party at times, he won praise from tea party activists for leading the GOP's push to shut the federal government during an unsuccessful bid to block money for President Barack Obama's health care law.
One of the nation's top college debaters while a student at Princeton University, Cruz continues to be a leading voice for the law's repeal. He also promises to abolish the Internal Revenue Service, scrap the Education Department and curtail federal regulators, likening them to locusts.
Cruz has left little doubt about his 2016 intentions in recent weeks. He made his first trip to New Hampshire earlier this month to help lay the groundwork for a presidential campaign, having already begun to ramp up outreach to party activists and donors.
While in New Hampshire, Cruz told voters his daughter, Caroline, had given him permission to join the presidential race in the hopes that the family puppy would get to play on the White House lawn instead of near their Houston high-rise condo.
"If you win, that means Snowflake will finally get a backyard to pee in," Cruz said his daughter told him.
Cruz is set to release a book this summer that he said would reflect themes of his White House campaign.
His forthright conservatism and ideologically uncompromising positions have often seen him earn condemnation from leading figures within the Republican establishment.
John McCain, the 2008 presidential candidate, once derided Cruz and two other tea party lawmakers as "wacko birds on the right."
Criticism has rarely fazed Cruz.
"I don't work for the party bosses in Washington. I work for the people of Texas. And I fight for them," Cruz said in a 2013 interview.
In a recent Associated Press interview, he said he wants to counter the "caricatures" of the right as "stupid," ''evil" or "crazy."
"The image created in the mainstream media does not comply with the facts," he said.
The son of an American mother and Cuban-born father, Cruz would be the nation's first Hispanic president. While born in Canada, two lawyers who represented presidents from both parties at the Supreme Court recently wrote in the Harvard Law Review that they think Cruz meets the constitutional standard to run.
Cruz would retain his Senate seat through early 2019 if he fails to win the presidency.
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