- The Washington Times - Monday, March 23, 2015

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas announced Monday that he is running for president, making him the first official candidate in the 2016 race for the White House.

“I believe God isn’t done with America yet,” Mr. Cruz said during a speech at Liberty University, sending a strong signal that he plans to compete for the evangelical Christians that traditionally play a big role in the GOP nomination race.

“I believe in you. I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives rising up to reignite the promise in America,” he said. “And that is why today I am announcing that I am running for president of the United States.”

The big question for Mr. Cruz is whether he can build a big enough coalition to claim the mantle of the conservative alternative to the establishment candidate in a Republican race that will likely also feature former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

“He potentially can rebuild the Reagan coalition by adding a populist, anti-Washington message that attracted disaffected Democrats and Independents,” said Craig Shirley, a biographer of President Reagan.

Liberty University was founded in 1971 by the late Jerry Falwell, the televangelist preacher who also led the formation of the moral majority that helped propel Ronald Reagan to the presidency in the 1980 election.

Mr. Cruz is running near the middle of the pack in early national polls, behind Mr. Bush, Mr. Walker and Mr. Paul, who is planning to enter the race early next month.

Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist, said Mr. Cruz has a “narrow” path to the nomination.

“For Cruz to have a legitimate shot at the nomination, he has to become the preeminent candidate for both grassroots conservatives and social conservatives, which means he has to elbow out the darlings of social conservatives — Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Ben Carson,” Mr. O’Connell said.

Mr, Cruz has won kudos from grass roots activists for the way in which he has stood up against members of both parties. He has been one of the sharpest critics of Obamacare and has slammed the Obama administration’s approach to immigration and foreign policy.

“Imagine in 2017, a new president signing legislation repealing every word of Obamacare,” Mr. Cruz said on Monday, sparking applause from the crowd.

In his speech, Mr. Cruz called for a flat tax on income, abolishing the internal Revenue Service, and securing the nation’s borders.

Mr. Cruz touted religious liberty, pro-life policies and traditional marriage, as well as Second Amendment gun rights and his desire to “repeal” the K-12 education standards known as Common Core.

He also promoted the nation’s ties to Israel, and said Iran should not obtain a nuclear weapon under any circumstances.

A graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, Mr. Cruz served as solicitor general of Texas, arguing several cases before the Supreme Court.

The first-term senator was elected to Congress in 2012.

Mr. Cruz was joined by his wife, Heidi, a managing director at Goldman Sachs, and his two young daughters, Caroline and Catherine.

Democrats wasted no time offering a mock welcome as the outspoken conservative entered the race.

“As the de facto leader of the Republican Party in recent years, it is only fitting that Ted Cruz would position himself in front of the GOP’s 2016 presidential field,” said Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, adding that Mr. Cruz’s “determination to oppose and obstruct any and all attempts to help the middle class is the embodiment of what’s wrong with the Republican Party.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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