Gentlemen (and lady), start your engines. Amid the swirl of rumors, "exploratory" efforts, polls, Political Action Committees, staff shake-ups, and power plays, no Republican has actually officially entered the 2016 fray just yet. That ends today. The first man in -- perhaps appropriately -- is the hard-charging junior Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz. The Houston Chronicle published the scoop over the weekend:
Sen. Ted Cruz plans to announce Monday that he will run for president of the United States, according to his senior advisers, accelerating his already rapid three-year rise from a tea party insurgent in Texas into a divisive political force in Washington. Cruz, scheduled to speak Monday at a convocation ceremony at Liberty University in Virginia, will not form an exploratory committee but rather launch a presidential bid outright, said advisers with direct knowledge of his plans, who spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement had not been made yet. They say he is done exploring and is now ready to become the first Republican presidential candidate.
Cruz has been a lightning rod ever since his upset victory over an establishment favorite in 2012's Senate primary in Texas. His intensity, unflinching conservatism, and aversion to compromise has delighted Tea Party and conservative activists, who form the core of Cruz's devoted fan base. These same qualities have also won him legions of detractors, many within his own party. Cruz backers count this as a feature, not a bug -- but one typically needs well-placed allies and institutional support to mount a formidable White House bid. Cruz will no doubt run a populist campaign against a sclerotic and dysfunctional Beltway culture, placing Democrats and Republicans in his rhetorical crosshairs. Given the public's deep-seated loathing of Washington, this strategy is likely to resonate with many voters across the political spectrum, at least on paper. To win the Republican nomination, Cruz will have to convince millions of GOP voters that he is the most viable carrier of the conservative torch against establishment juggernaut Jeb Bush. If he manages to secure the party's backing, Cruz will then have to fend off accusations from Democrats that his hardcore views and tactics make him a prime architect of DC dysfunction, orchestrating standoffs and exploiting crises as a means of ideological warfare and self-promotion. And he'll have to surmount these challenges while addressing his "Obama problem," shared by likely 2016 entrants Marco Rubio and Rand Paul: Namely, that he's a long-on-rhetoric, short-on-accomplishments first term Senator with little practical experience as an executive. I'll leave you with three videos -- one previewing Cruz's messaging to the conservative base, the others showcasing his lighter side in a recent interview on Late Night with Seth Meyers during which he navigated a trap question on climate change with a fairly deft, light touch. Even in liberal Manhattan, Cruz had a portion of the audience on his side:
Cruz enters the race averaging less than five percent support among the national Republican electorate, sandwiched between Rubio and Rick Perry.