Conservative firebrand and Tea Party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) announced Monday that he is officially a candidate for president in the 2016 race, and promised to restore the promise of America to millions of Americans.
"I believe in you. I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives rising up to reignite the promise of America," he said at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. "And that is why today, I am announcing that I'm running for president of the United States."
"It is a time for truth," Cruz said. "It is a time for liberty. It is a time to reclaim the Constitution of the United States."
Cruz framed his campaign as part of an effort to restore the promise of America, which allows immigrants like his own parents to come to the United States and becoming whatever they want.
"The answer will not come from Washington," he said. "It will come only from the men and women across this country, from men and women, from people of faith, from lovers of liberty, from people who respect the Constitution."
"It will only come as it has come at every other time of challenge in this country — when the American people stand together and say we will get back to the principles that have made this country great," he added. "We will get back and restore that shining city on a hill that is the United States of America."
His remarks hit on many of the themes he has hit on for the last few years. Some of his biggest applause lines came from his promise to eliminate Obamacare and end President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration.
"Imagine abolishing the IRS," he said to cheers. "Imagine embracing school choice as the civil rights issue of the next generation."
But one of the loudest applause lines was his call to imagine the U.S. being a better friend to Israel than Obama has been. "Instead of a president who boycotts Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, imagine a president who stands unapologetically with the nation of Israel," he said.
Cruz's decision to announce at Liberty University, the largest Christian university in the world, gave him a chance to stress the importance of faith. He recounted that his father — an immigrant from Cuba — left the family, then living in Canada, when Cruz was just 3, returning to Texas after deciding he didn't want to be married anymore. But he said his father discovered religion in Texas.
"And there, my father gave his life to Jesus Christ," Cruz said. His father, a pastor, ultimately returned home to the family.
"There are people who wonder if faith is real," he said. "I can tell you, in my family, there's not a second of doubt." He stressed to Christians around the country to come to the polls in 2016 and vote their values, and asked the audience to imagine a federal government that works to "defend the sanctity of human life."
His speech followed a late Sunday night announcement that said he was running, and the Monday morning release of a new video in which Cruz encouraged people to "stand up and support our promise."
"It’s going to take a new generation of courageous conservatives to help make America great again," he said. "And I’m ready to stand with you to lead the fight."
With the announcement, Cruz is the first nationally known candidate for 2016. A few other Republicans, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, have formed exploratory committees and are expected to declare one way or the other in the coming weeks and months.
Cruz's announcement seems designed to seize the official status as frontrunner while he can, a head start he may need against other Republicans that are expected to enter the race. The most recent polls have him trailing Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, author and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Cruz has also polled at roughly the same levels as fellow Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
Still, Cruz is arguably the Republican in Congress most identified with the GOP's opposition to President Barack Obama. He's been at the forefront of efforts in Congress to repeal Obamacare, and fight Obama's executive action on immigration.
On immigration, Cruz will likely find himself fighting those in his own party, including Bush, who have a more moderate stance on the issue. And Cruz's opposition within the Republican Party is already well-funded — Bush is easily the biggest money-raiser so far of all the possible GOP candidates.
Cruz has hinted that his strategy will be to pull together fiscal conservatives, those who prioritize defense and national security, and those on the religious right.
While Cruz and Obama have almost nothing in common policy-wise, Cruz is hoping to emulate Obama's path to the White House. Obama became president just four years after he first became a U.S. senator — two years short of a full six-year term — and rose to power largely on strength of his criticisms of the incumbent president.
A Cruz victory in 2016 would match that feat, and his attempt will likely be filled with reminders of what Cruz has said are Obama numerous foreign and domestic policy failures.
During his first year in the Senate in 2013, he quickly won the hearts of conservatives by launching a filibuster on the Senate floor to protest Obamacare. He said dramatically that he would talk until he is "no longer able to stand," and ended more than 21 hours later.
Late last year, Cruz urged senators to vote against a $1.1 trillion spending bill that funded most of the government for the rest of fiscal year 2015. Cruz and other Republicans warned that the idea of only giving the Department of Homeland Security temporary funding, in the hopes of forcing Democrats to agree to defund President Barack Obama's immigration plan, would backfire, since the GOP would be seen as taking DHS hostage.
By March, Cruz was proven right, as Republican leaders in the House and Senate were forced to drop their fight against Obama's immigration plan and pass a "clean" DHS bill. In the end, 75 House Republicans agreed to pass the clean bill.
More recently, he has joined with other Republicans to criticize Obama's ongoing effort to strike a nuclear agreement with Iran.