(CNN) – Ted Cruz is first out the gate.
The first-term senator from Texas announced shortly after midnight on Monday via Twitter that he is running for president. Cruz announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in a 30-second video message, hours before he was set to officially declare in a speech in Lynchburg, Virginia at Liberty University, the largest Christian university in the world.
“I’m running for President and I hope to earn your support!” Cruz tweeted
Cruz, 44, will be the first candidate to formally throw his hat in the ring for what’s expected to be a crowded GOP primary, with more than a dozen high-profile Republicans expressing serious interest in a White House run.
“It’s a time for truth, a time to rise to the challenge just as Americans have always done,” Cruz says over clips of American landscapes and people. “It’s going to take a new generation of courageous conservatives to help make America great again. And I’m ready to stand with you to lead the fight.”
The Houston Chronicle first reported that Cruz would declare his candidacy on Monday, skipping the step of forming an exploratory committee, according to advisers with direct knowledge of his plans.
Cruz, armed with his trademark ostrich boots and impressive oratory skills, has quickly made a name for himself in the past two years since he started in the Senate, solidifying his brand as a conservative firebrand willing to take on establishment Republicans in Washington.
A constant and vocal critic of the Obama administration, he’s perhaps best known for his stalwart fight against Obamacare in 2013, which led to a tense standoff between Democrats and Republicans and ultimately resulted in a 17-day government shutdown. The showdown was punctuated by Cruz’s 21-hour speech on the Senate floor.
While popular in conservative and tea party circles, Cruz has a long way to go in terms of broader support in the GOP base, according to public opinion polls. A CNN/ORC International survey conducted this month of the hypothetical Republican primary showed Cruz came in with 4% support among Republicans and independents who lean Republican.
But the field is still relatively open, with the top contender — Jeb Bush — coming in at 16% support, followed by Scott Walker at 13%.
Cruz this month finished an early-voting state tour to Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire — and he’s scheduled to return to New Hampshire on March 28 to speak at a brunch in Rockingham County.
He’s already staking out conservative territory in the nascent primary race, telling voters to challenge other Republican candidates about not just their words, but their actions, and whether they stand on principle.
“It’s easy for candidates to give an answer,” he said at a recent event in New Hampshire, but added: “The proof is in the pudding. What I’ve urged Republicans to ask of every candidate is: Have you walked the walk? Show me your record.”
Cruz developed a loyal following when he won his 2012 primary battle in Texas as a little-known candidate, forcing then-Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst into a surprise runoff and ultimately defeating the establishment Republican.
Along with two other first-term senators who are expected to run for president (Rand Paul and Marco Rubio), Cruz will likely face questions over experience, an issue that Republicans brought up in 2008 against Barack Obama, who was also a first-term senator at the time.
Before running for the Senate in 2012 — his first campaign for public office — Cruz was solicitor general of Texas and argued before the Supreme Court. He graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School.
Born in Canada to a Cuban father and American mother, Cruz was a dual-citizen until he renounced Canadian citizenship in 2014. He faced questions over whether he would qualify for the presidency, though law experts consider him a natural-born citizen because he was born to an American mother.
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