"One of the clearest arcs you can draw is from his early dissents in the 1970s to ... settled law in the '90s and 2000s," says Cruz. "It is a powerful arc of principled leadership."
Cruz sees great need for principled leadership now.
"We are facing the epic battle of our generation," says Cruz. "This president is the most radical president ever to occupy the White House. The question we are fighting over is: Does this nation remain a free-market economy?"
Entitlements, he believes, must be reformed -- not just for fiscal reasons, but also to advance liberty.
"It is absolutely clear if we are going to address spending and the deficit and the debt we have got to address entitlements in a serious way," he says. "Historically, politicians have been terrified to do that. They have been terrified that they will be demagogued. In my judgment, we are at a moment of time where serious leadership is possible to address entitlements and to look for a way both to restrain the exploding unfunded liabilities of our entitlements and also provide for more individual ownership, responsibility and choice both with respect to Medicare and Social Security."
One way to do this, he says, is to reform Social Security by allowing people to have personal retirement accounts. "It is a transformative policy, and it is based on an understanding that focuses on individual ownership and policies that expand and facilitate individual responsibility," he says.
Cruz stands with the pro-life plank of the Republican platform. "I am pro-life unapologetically," he says, pointing to his record defending pro-life positions as Texas solicitor general. "If someone is really a conservative, they will bear the scars of having been in the fight," he says, "and if they don't bear the scars and if they have never stood up and defended conservative principles, that suggests that is not their principle and motivation."
On foreign policy, President Reagan is his model.
"The person in modern times whose views I think were closest to mine on foreign policy issues was President Reagan," says Cruz. "I think the principal focus of U.S. foreign policy should be protecting U.S. interests, protecting our national security interests, and I think we should be vigorous in doing so. That should be the touchstone. I think we should not be engaged in nation-building.
"Simultaneously, though," says Cruz, "I think we should be unrelenting voices for freedom, and this is where some of the realists I disagree with, because the realists in the 1970s said the Soviet Union was unbeatable: We have to accept their military superiority. We have to accept our second-class position. But President Reagan had the moral clarity to say communism will end up on the dustbin of history because the Soviet Union is a communist nation that is an evil empire.
"We need to remain unapologetic, clarion defenders of liberty," he says.
One suspects Ted Cruz will do just that. He is now running for the U.S. Senate from Texas.