Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted early Monday morning that he is running for president.
“I’m running for president and I hope to earn your support!” he declared, adding in an accompanying video filled with images of farm fields, city skylines and American landmarks that “It’s going to take a new generation of courageous conservations to help make America great again. I’m ready to stand with you to lead the fight.
While the tweeted announcement from the first Republican to declare his candidacy came as a surprise, Cruz’s intention to announce his candidacy did not. The Houston Chronicle reported on Saturday that Cruz would announce his 2016 White House bid on Monday at Liberty University. Announcing his candidacy formally at the Christian institution in Lynchburg, Virginia, founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell will showcase his sympathy for religious conservatives.
Amy Kremer, the former head of the Tea Party Express, said that the Republican pool of candidates "will take a quantum leap forward" with Cruz's announcement, adding that it "will excite the base in a way we haven't seen in years."
USA Today on Sunday called Cruz “the undisputed leader” of the tea party movement. Arizona Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, famously called Cruz and other tea party lawmakers "wacko birds" in 2013.
A Harvard-educated Cuban-American, Cruz, a former Texas solicitor general, was elected for the first time just three years ago, when he defeated Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, an establishment figure in Texas politics with decades of experience in office, in a runoff.
Cruz, 44, has hinted openly for more than a year that he wants to move down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Senate and into the White House.
As the only declared candidate, Cruz is likely to get extra media and voter attention until others enter the fray. But he also faces more restrictions, such as a $5,400 cap on contributions from supporters, the maximum allowed for candidates. Undeclared candidates in the Republican field — including his Senate colleagues Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida as well as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — may solicit million-dollar checks for their political organizations until they formally declare.
‘It’s going to take a new generation of courageous conservations to help make America great again. I’m ready to stand with you to lead the fight.’
Republican candidate for president
Cruz is often at odds with GOP and Senate leaders — California Democrat Dianne Feinstein told the freshman senator in 2012, “I am not a sixth-grader” during a sharp exchange on the Second Amendment.
But Cruz has a devoted following among conservative Republicans. With tea party backing, in 2013, Cruz pushed his party to force a 16-day government shutdown in an unsuccessful effort to deny funding President Barack Obama's signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act. He led a similar effort this year, also unsuccessful, to block Obama's effort to remove the threat of deportation for some undocumented immigrants.
Despite — or perhaps because of — his continued unpopularity in Washington, Cruz's appeal among grass-roots activists has grown.
In recent weeks, he has criticized other potential Republican candidates for supporting comprehensive immigration reform and the Common Core educational standards. He has called for abolishing the Internal Revenue Service and stationing its agents on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Cruz is a proven fundraiser, collecting in $18 million for his Senate race and raising a further $2 million to distribute to other candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
He will aim to raise $40 million to $50 million over the course of the Republican primary campaign, according to The Houston Chronicle.
That might be less than the total raised by more establishment-friendly candidates like Bush or Rubio, who is viewed favorably by many wealthy donors in a conservative network led by billionaire industrialists Charles Koch and David Koch.
Cruz was supported by 8 percent of self-identified Republicans in a recent Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll. Bush led the poll with 21 percent, and Walker ranked second with 16 percent.
Several other potential candidates are statistically tied with Cruz, including Rubio, Paul, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
The Democratic field is shaping up to be far leaner. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has yet to declare her candidacy but is viewed as the front-runner in her party.