How Ted Cruz Will Pull the GOP Presidential Primary Right

The Texan spent the last months before his presidential campaign showing off his knack for articulating the most conservative position on numerous issues.

March 22, 2015, 6:55 a.m.

Sen. Ted Cruz will reportedly launch his 2016 presidential campaign during a speech Monday, the Houston Chronicle wrote Saturday night. The Texas Republican has been laying the groundwork for a run for months—visiting early primary states, meeting with Republican activists, and hiring political strategists to manage his campaign—and has chosen the evangelical Liberty University in Virginia as the site of his official announcement.

Though Cruz is not considered a favorite to win the GOP nomination, he will undoubtedly play a huge role in the 2016 campaign by catering to conservative voters, who tend to dominate primaries, with his knack for articulating the most conservative position on key issues.

Just in the past couple of months, the fiery Cruz has shown off that knack in visits to Iowa and New Hampshire, on cable news, and on the Senate floor. Cruz made his name in the Senate as one of the GOP’s staunchest critics of the Affordable Care Act—even driving a strategy that led to 2013’s government shutdown—but Cruz is deeply conservative on any number of issues and he’s not afraid to say so. That could have a big impact on the rest of the field: In the 2012 presidential race, conservative candidates similar to Cruz often pulled the GOP primary field along with them.

(RELATED: Ted Cruz Beat the GOP Establishment Once. Can He Do It Again?)

How Cruz affects the 2016 primary will come down to how the other candidates react to him—whether by moving to the right themselves on some issues or by using Cruz as a contrast to try to distinguish themselves as more moderate. Either way, Cruz has spent his last months before officially becoming a presidential candidate highlighting his ability to get on the most conservative side of an issue.

In Iowa, Cruz told conservative Christians he is the Republican field’s leading opponent of gay marriage.

As the country has started approving of same-sex marriage and many Republican officials have deemphasized the party’s long-time focus on defining marriage as “one man, one woman,” Cruz has remained a sharp opponent. While visiting Iowa two weeks ago, Cruz told a crowd of evangelicals that the issue “distinguishes him from other potential candidates,” per the Des Moines Register, and that he still sees opposing same-sex marriage as a front-burner issue. So do many evangelicals in the state, who made up over half of GOP caucus-goers in 2012.

Cruz took that fight to the Senate floor in February, promising to introduce a constitutional amendment that would leave marriage up to the states while also signing onto a bill with the same goal.

(RELATED: Ted Cruz, With the Opening Ads of 2016, Wants You to Know Just How Conservative He Is)

Cruz introduced Senate resolutions on social issues in Washington, D.C.

Congress has the power to undo laws passed by the District of Columbia’s local government, but as The Washington Post notes, such an effort would need President Obama’s support to succeed. So while Cruz’s recent resolutions to undo D.C. policies—one which keeps employers from firing workers who use birth control and another which exempts “religiously affiliated educational institutions from the city’s gay nondiscrimination law,” per the Post—are unlikely to succeed, they did once again underline his commitment to being a staunch social conservative after some Republicans have urged the party to focus more on economic issues.

Cruz told Fox News viewers that President Obama was an apologist for Islamic radicals.

Cruz’s presidential primary opponents may struggle to match his strident rhetoric on a host of issues. Foreign policy is a big one, as Cruz demonstrated in a February appearance on Fox News. The Texan said Obama’s statements and policies were hurting the global fight against ISIS, particularly because he was being “an apologist for radical Islamic terrorists, to analogize it to the Crusades from 700 years ago,” Cruz said.

In a recent appearance on ABC News, Cruz said he’d be willing to send ground forces to fight ISIS in the Middle East.

(RELATED: Ted Cruz Is Prepping a Foreign Policy-Focused Presidential Campaign)

Cruz told Iowa agriculture interests that he opposes the renewable fuel standard.

On another trip to Iowa, Cruz stuck to his guns and didn’t pander on a key issue for business interests there: federal mandates for the production of biofuels, including corn ethanol. Iowa corn producers make a lot of money because the demand for their product driven by the “renewable fuel standard,” but many conservatives see the policy as an unnecessary mandate. And Cruz told attendees at the Iowa Ag Summit that the federal government shouldn’t dictate that production. Cruz said energy production should be “driven by the market,” the Des Moines Register wrote.

In New Hampshire, Cruz advocated for unlimited money in politics, likening it to free speech.

Politicians in both parties tend to rag on the influence of big donors—usually the ones that fund their opponents. But on a trip to New Hampshire last week, Cruz argued that campaign finance rules limit free speech and “muzzle citizens,” the Associated Press reported.

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