Cruz headed to Princeton and became a champion debater, winning first place at the 1992 U.S. National Debating Championship and the 1992 North American Debate Championships. (He can still bring it: When I interviewed him—see "All together now," WORLD, Nov. 7, 2009—before a New York college audience, his passionate yet logical responses brought usually laid-back students to their feet with a standing ovation.)
Cruz then graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was a primary editor of the Harvard Law Review and founding editor of the Latino Law Review. He headed to Washington and worked for William Rehnquist, the first Hispanic to clerk for a chief justice of the United States. Soon Cruz was on lists like Newsweek's "20 Young Hispanic Americans on the Rise" (1999).
After some time advising George W. Bush, Cruz in 2003 became solicitor general of Texas, the youngest in the nation. He authored 70 briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court and argued before it eight times. He won cases defending a Ten Commandments monument on the Texas State Capitol grounds, defending recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, and defending the State of Texas against attempts by the World Court to re-open the convictions of 51 murderers on death row.
In the process he made more lists, such as the National Law Journal's "50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America." His office has a statue of Ronald Reagan and a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. He's a member of Lake Hills Church in Austin. He married a lovely investment banker who had also gone to Harvard and worked for Bush. Ted and Heidi Cruz now have a 1-year-old daughter. His favorite movie is The Princess Bride. (If you haven't seen it, rent it.)
Many hurdles remain for Cruz: the attorney general contest next year, a potential run for governor four years later, plus all the exigencies of life that no one can anticipate. Other good candidates will emerge. But if Republican leaders are smart (and they often are not), they'll be looking not for a living legend but for someone like Cruz.