Declaring his belief in the power of like-minded rightwingers—who he termed "courageous conservatives"—to rise up in the name of "truth" and "liberty," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) became the first Republican to formally announce his candidacy for the 2016 presidential campaign in a speech before a crowd of supporters at the evangelical Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia on Monday.
Cruz, Texas' junior senator and a darling of the GOP's Tea Party faction, said his campaign would be focused on undoing the damage he sees as caused by the Obama administration, including religious-inflected promises to repeal the Accordable Care Act (aka Obamacare); to abolish the IRS; to be the president who "finally, finally, finally secures the border;" and to defend issues seen as important to he and his fellow conservative-Christians, including restrictions on abortion and opposition to gay marriage.
As the Washington Post reported, "Cruz's speech had the feel of a sermon at a megachurch, with the candidate wearing a wireless microphone and walking around a stage" as he delivered his speech to the crowd of mostly students.
"God's blessing has been on America from the very beginning of this nation and I believe that God isn't done with Americans," Cruz told his supporters. "I believe in you. I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives rising up to reignite the promise of America. And that is that is why, today, I am announcing that I am running for president of the United States of America."
As mouthpieces for the nation's most conservative and regressive factions—including Glenn Beck, the Drudge Report, and Rush Limbaugh—championed Cruz's announcement, progressives were quick to note some of the senator's more negative personal and political attributes, including his propensity for generating disgust.
Kay Steiger, writing for ThinkProgress, wasted no time in the wake of Monday's speech in Virginia to say Cruz's set of policy proposals for his presidential run amounted to an "anti-women agenda" from top to bottom. From reproductive rights to immigration reform, foreign policy to tax policy, explained Steiger – "on nearly each major policy point Cruz supported a side that isn’t popular with women."
Meanwhile, The Nation's George Zornick dryly asserted that the "biggest liability" for the Cruz campaign—especially given its announced determination to focus on "truth"— will "probably be his constant lying."
Cruz is a notable politician, explains Zornick, not because his lofty rhetoric about "truth" or his claimed reverence for the U.S. Constitution, but for how "boldly he claims things that aren’t even remotely true." Offering a quick survey, Zornick writes:
- Cruz said ISIS is “right now crucifying Christians in Iraq, literally nailing Christians to trees.” It wasn’t, and Cruz wasn’t able to offer any evidence.
- Cruz described a “strong bipartisan majority” in the House that voted to repeal Obamacare. Two Democrats joined the Republicans.
- He bluntly claimed that “the jurisdictions with the strictest gun control laws, almost without exception … have the highest crime rates and the highest murder rates.” This is not true.
- In recent weeks, Cruz has been using some variation of this line: “There are 110,000 agents at the IRS. We need to put a padlock on that building and take every one of those 110,000 agents and put them on our southern border.” The IRS doesn’t have 110,000 employees, let alone agents. (There are 14,000).
Many others were pointing to a Politifact analysis of 42 statements made by Sen. Cruz of which only one received the label of being "True." And Politico offered this collection of provocative Cruz quotations.
Others, however, pointed out that Cruz's candidacy would be more laughable if the stakes weren't so high. As Twitter user Umair Haque assessed on Monday: "It's fun to poke fun at Ted Cruz. But we should remember his crazy is there to later make the merely extreme seem eminently reasonable."
On the other hand, as Vox.com's Ezra Klein points out, though Cruz is certainly "a very conservative senator," he is not, for the most part, "far outside the Republican mainstream."
According to Klein, "There's not much that Cruz imagines that his colleagues don't also dream of. What sets Cruz apart are his tactics: he tends toward confrontation — even with other Republicans."
And at FireDogLake, blogger DS Wright described the tough road ahead for a Cruz candidacy, not just from his obvious critics on the left, but exactly because of these tensions between him and the GOP establishment. According to Wright:
Senator Cruz is going to have a difficult time winning the Republican presidential nomination let alone winning the general. He is a polarizing figure within the Republican Party, especially amongst the party establishment who see him as disruptive and irresponsible after he helped force a shutdown of the federal government over Obamacare.
Cruz’s support comes from the conservative “Tea Party” base which he will have to unite convincingly around his candidacy to have any chance of taking on whatever choice the GOP establishment and its high money donors settle on. If Cruz can effectively lock up the base early and soundly win Iowa he could overtake the establishment’s candidate.
But building such an organization is going to take time which is likely why Senator Cruz was the first to announce, he has to get rolling early or his candidacy is over before it begins.
Cruz now joins former governor of Florida Jeb Bush and current Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as among those most discussed for the Republican nomination. Neither of them have officially declared whether or not they will run.