Ted Cruz was never one to wait.
The freshman senator will reportedly become the first Republican to officially announce his presidential candidacy, as he hopes to make another audacious leap to prominence in a political career that has been full of them. Cruz's has an event scheduled at Liberty University in Virginia on Monday, and members of his team have told the Houston Chronicle and confirmed to The New York Times that he will announce his candidacy there.
His early entry in the presidential race wouldn't cost him the campaign contribution money the way it would other candidates. Cruz's status as a senator restricts his fundraising practices, while a former Florida governor like Jeb Bush can use this time to raise millions of dollars for a supportive super PAC before announcing a campaign.
As with any candidate in what is shaping up to be an extremely competitive GOP primary field, Cruz's path to victory is difficult. Along with nearly a dozen other potential contenders, Cruz will face an establishment rival in Bush, who declared his interest in running in December, and in Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who hasn't yet announced an exploratory committee or campaign but has polled strongly among both establishment and tea party conservatives. But senior advisers say the senator's ability to distinguish his particular brand of brazen conservativism from the "mushy middle" of the GOP will be key in his route to the nomination.
The campaign's unveiling at Liberty University puts to the fore the religious voters he hopes to capture in a Republican primary, particularly in first-in-the-nation Iowa. The school was founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, a strident leader of the religious right and the GOP's "moral majority," in 1971. Cruz, whose father is a preacher, plans to stoke evangelical support in his bid for the White House.
He'll also draw on the kinds of voters who boosted his underdog Senate campaign in 2012 against the establishment pick, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Cruz, who defeated Dewhurst 57 percent to 43 percent in the Republican primary, has built a reputation on channeling the frustration of the anti-establishment sect within the GOP.
Cruz's decision to go first, as well as to skip the "exploratory phase" of a campaign run-up, is in keeping with a senator whose rapid political rise has come through a series of unexpected leaps to prominence. As a freshman senator, Cruz became a leading force of the GOP's tea party wing in the Senate, often (and proudly) bucking the wishes of party leadership in order to make the "stands on principle" that inspired his supporters and infuriated his critics inside the party and out.
The highest profile of those clashes came during October 2013 when Cruz prompted a monthlong government shutdown in an unsuccessful attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act.
In a primary fight and beyond, Cruz's brief time in office will inevitably continue to elicit comparisons to another one-term senator: President Obama. But his campaign's betting that "standing for principle" will trump a lack of experience.