Texas Sen. Ted Cruz tries to position himself as the only consistent conservative in the race for president, railing against the “Washington cartel” while pushing a conservative agenda that appeals to the tea party and evangelical wings of the Republican Party. Here’s a quick snapshot of things to know about him.
Ted Cruz has risen from being almost unknown in Iowa to being one of the front-runners. He won election to the Senate in 2012 as a political rookie in Texas, riding a tea party wave to upset a candidate with decades of experience and deep connections inside the Republican Party. He’s proceeded since with the same disregard for the GOP establishment, at times maneuvering quixotically in the Senate to mount an aggressive opposition to President Barack Obama. It’s an approach that has annoyed fellow Republicans – Arizona Sen. John McCain famously labeled Cruz as one of the Senate’s “wacko birds” – but Cruz is unapologetic. As he likes to tell voters in early voting states, “If you see a candidate who Washington embraces, run and hide.”
Before his election to the Senate, Cruz had a career centered on practicing law at the highest level. A graduate of Harvard Law School and clerk for Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist, Cruz led a Houston-based firm’s Supreme Court practice, taught such litigation at the University of Texas and was charged with representing the state before the high court as its solicitor general. He also served in the George W. Bush administration, at both the Federal Trade Commission and as an associate deputy attorney general at the Justice Department.
Cruz became a favorite of tea party conservatives when for 21 hours and 19 minutes in September 2013, he stood in the Senate to urge Congress to cut off money for Obama’s health care law. The speech, during which Cruz read the Dr. Seuss classic “Green Eggs and Ham” to his daughters, said to be watching their father at home, was partly behind a 16-day partial government shutdown the next month. Cruz argues he wants to make the 2016 presidential election a referendum on the health care law and his plans to institute a flat tax, rewriting and simplifying the income tax code. Along the way he wants to abolish the IRS and Education Department, undo the Iranian nuclear deal and build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico border.
Cruz was a collegiate debating champion at Princeton, and he has shown flashes of rhetorical flourish during the debates. He got one of the loudest ovations of any debate in October when he skewered questions being asked by the moderators. “How about talking about the substantive issues people care about?” Cruz asked as the crowd roared its approval. It’s a clip his campaign now plays at town-hall meetings. But Cruz’s aggressive debate strategy backfired when he questioned rival Donald Trump’s adherence to liberal “New York values.” Trump pivoted by blasting Cruz for not mentioning the bravery of first responders killed in the 9-11 attacks and how the city came together.
Moment to remember
Cruz released a parody video the week before Christmas, showing him reading holiday classics to his children like “How Obamacare Stole Christmas” and “Rudolph the Underemployed Reindeer.” The video helped Cruz advance his political agenda, showed a sense of humor – if at someone else’s expense – and racked up nearly 1.9 million views in five weeks. Cruz has also employed humor with an edge on Twitter. When Trump refused to participate in the last debate before the Iowa caucuses, Cruz posted a link to the song “Brave Sir Robin Ran Away” from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” And when Trump called Cruz “nasty,” the senator responded by posting a link to Janet Jackson’s music video from her song by that name.
Cruz has a lot of enemies who aren’t afraid to talk about their distaste for the firebrand senator. But perhaps his harshest critic has been his old college roommate, Craig Mazin, now a Hollywood screenwriter. Mazin was quoted in 2013 as saying, “I would rather have anybody else be the president of the United States. Anyone. I would rather pick somebody from the phone book.” Mazin remains active in lambasting Cruz on Twitter. The attacks on Cruz’s personality from Mazin and others have become so persistent that Cruz is now trying to use them to his advantage. “If you want someone to grab a beer with,” he said in a debate, “I may not be that guy. But if you want someone to drive you home, I will get the job done and I will get you home.”
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