Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times
The venue has little personal significance for him, but the timing of Senator Ted Cruzâs formal entry into the 2016 presidential field on Monday is full of meaning, as he seeks to catapult to the forefront of an increasingly competitive cluster of conservatives vying for the Republican nomination.
By becoming the first candidate to declare himself officially in the race, Republicans briefed on his strategy said, Mr. Cruz hopes to reclaim the affection and attention of those on the partyâs right wing who have begun eyeing other contenders, particularly Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
âItâs the shiny object principle. He wants to be first, get in the conversation, not show any doubt or hesitation,â said Dave Carney, a longtime Republican strategist. âThereâs an advantage to being first. Heâs now the only one running for president, instead of engaging in this Kabuki dance that the others are.â
Mr. Cruz made his intention to join the race official early on Monday morning, just minutes after midnight, with a message posted to Twitter. âIâm running for President and I hope to earn your support!â he wrote, with a link to a 30-second video.
Continue reading the main story Video by Ted Cruz
Mr. Cruz, a first-term senator from Texas, will deliver a formal speech during the weekly convocation at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., a Baptist institution founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr. that has served as a conservative backdrop for many Republican politicians over the years.
Mr. Cruz, himself a Baptist, arranged his announcement just days ago, effectively bumping Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, who was scheduled to speak, according to The Liberty Champion, the student newspaper. âI got the call last week,â Jerry Falwell Jr., the universityâs president, told the paper. (Mr. Falwell wrote in an email Sunday night that the university had offered to let Mr. McAuliffe share the stage with Mr. Cruz, but that the governor chose to visit Liberty âon another day.â)
If Mr. Cruzâs choice of setting underscores his intention to appeal to the Christian conservatives who make up a pivotal voting bloc in many Republican primary states, the timing illustrates his urgent need to draw attention to his candidacy, which has been widely expected.
Mr. Cruz, 44, who was elected in 2012, gained fame by trying to block funding for President Obamaâs health law in 2013. His tactics resulted in a partial closure of the federal government, a turn of events that made âCruzâ a four-letter word to his partyâs leadership but endeared him to many conservative activists hungry for politicians who would confront both parties.
But in recent months, Mr. Cruz has been overshadowed by other potential Republican candidates in the early competition for donors, staff, volunteers and news coverage. Most notably, Mr. Walker has drawn attention from those interested in an alternative to former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida.
In multiple meetings since January, Mr. Cruzâs advisers discussed Mr. Walkerâs effort to win support from both the center-right and more conservative wings of the party, according to Republicans familiar with the sessions but who were not authorized to speak on the record.
Witnessing Mr. Walkerâs early boomlet, along with some of the Wisconsin governorâs initial stumbles, prompted Mr. Cruz to announce early, ahead of the other hopefuls in both parties, the Republicans briefed on his strategy said.
Mr. Cruz and his advisers, recalling his path to victory in Texas, saw more opportunity than risk in dispensing with any exploratory phase: In 2012, Mr. Cruz entered what was initially a crowded Republican field more than a year before the Senate primary and slowly earned support from conservative activists through intensive travel and on the strength â and uncompromising nature â of his rhetoric.
He now plans on pursuing a similar presidential campaign, portraying himself as not only the most doctrinaire candidate, but as the one most willing to fight for the principles of the conservative movement.
Kellyanne Conway, a Republican pollster, said that distinction could help Mr. Cruz win over the partyâs hard-line activists.
âItâs not necessary for him to show that heâs the most conservative, but that heâs the most courageous conservative,â she said.
Asked about Mr. Walkerâs impact on Mr. Cruzâs timing, Jason Miller, a Cruz adviser, said voters were âhungry to have a conservative in this race willing to lead, and Senator Cruz is willing to stand up and do just that.â He added: âOur campaign has a clear path to victory, we can raise the money and weâre ready to go.â
Mr. Cruzâs first challenge is finding a way to stand out in Iowa, where the possible Republican field includes the winners of the last two caucuses, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, as well as Mr. Walker, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, the neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
âClearly his path here is to build a coalition of tea partyers and evangelicals,â Matthew N. Strawn, a former Iowa Republican chairman who is not supporting any candidate, said of Mr. Cruz. âHis ceiling is going to be determined by how much of a share he can getâ from those groups, who amount to roughly 40 percent of the caucus electorate, Mr. Strawn said.
Mr. Cruz believes that his brand of small-government, culturally traditional and hawkish conservatism â what he calls âall three legs of the proverbial Republican stoolâ â will appeal to primary voters who may have questions about the fealty of the other candidates to what he sees as the pillars of the right.
Like the other conservatives who lack for support among the Republican donor elite, Mr. Cruz will finance his campaign by looking to a mix of small-dollar contributors and a handful of wealthy patrons who could finance a super PAC. Mr. Miller, the adviser to Mr. Cruz, confirmed the campaign would aim to raise at least $ 40 million. Mr. Miller said the campaignâs moves were not dictated by Mr. Walker but by realizing that Mr. Cruz could now ably raise roughly $ 1 million in the first week.
Mr. Cruz has Princeton and Harvard degrees, but Liberty offers him a handy symbolic setting for his formal speech. âThe name of the university itself is a good fusion between the lanes he hopes to straddle, constitutional conservatives/tea party and evangelicals,â said Phil Musser, a Republican strategist.
Student attendance at the convocation is mandatory.