Cruz Is First to Declare for 2016 Presidential Run
Policy + Politics

Cruz Is First to Declare for 2016 Presidential Run

In an apparent move to try to steal the thunder from rivals Jeb Bush and Scott Walker in the early maneuvering for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) reportedly will announce his plans to run for president on Monday.

Cruz, a Tea Party champion and one of the strongest critics of President Obama’s national security and domestic policy policies, will make his announcement at Liberty University in Virginia. He’s expected to be a speaker at a convocation ceremony there.

Related: Sen. Ted Cruz Attacks Obama During New Hampshire Visit

Rather than create an exploratory committee to generate interest and campaign funding before a formal declaration, the conservative firebrand plans a more frontal attack to try to capture conservative Republican support in the early going.

He is setting a goal of raising between $40 million and $50 million, The Houston Chronicle reported, adding that he also hopes to peel off enough social conservative and libertarian support to defeat the eventual GOP establishment choice. According to media reports, Cruz has been working aggressively to court major donors nationally, and he often touts the Tea Party appeal that vaulted him to office.

Cruz, 44, is the first Latino to serve in the Senate from Texas and served as solicitor general of Texas from 2003 to 2008. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Cruz is a highly polished and articulate spokesman for his party’s right wing.

The combative Cruz has caused major stirs on Capitol Hill. At times his moves have alienated his more politically pragmatic colleagues: His unsuccessful efforts to block funding for the Affordable Care Act in 2013 were in part responsible for the partial government shutdown that year.

A favorite speaker on the GOP conservative circuit, Cruz has also typically turned up in the second and even third tier of Republican presidential aspirants in national polling.

Related: GOP 2016: Scott Walker Has the Lead, Jeb Bush Has the Money

According to a Real Clear Politics average of polling results between late January and March 15, Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, and Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, lead the field of GOP presidential wannabes with 16.6 percent each. Cruz has brought up the rear with just 4.6 percent.

Moreover, Bush and Walker have made great strides in locking up campaign funding early on, with Bush in particularly on target to raise tens of millions from establishment GOP sources in the next month or so.

This may be why Cruz has chosen to become the first Republican to formally enter the 2016 presidential campaign, to try to shift the national media focus away from Bush, Walker, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

Despite his lackluster showing in early polls, it would be a mistake to underestimate Cruz given his appeal to his party’s conservative base. Those Republicans vote disproportionately in GOP primaries and could make him competitive in the Iowa caucuses and beyond.

Related: Decoding Cruz: 21 Things You Don’t Know About Him

Senate Armed Services Committee Chair John McCain (R-AZ) once denounced Cruz as a “wacko bird” for filibustering against the nomination of CIA Director John O. Brennan because of opposition to President Obama’s drone policy. But McCain said today on CNN that Cruz was a “valued member” of the Senate who would make a “viable” candidate for president.

McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, hastened to add that he is backing his friend and fellow defense hawk, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for president.

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