Fiery Republican senator declares White House bid

Fiery Republican senator declares White House bid
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) stands on stage with his wife Heidi and their daughters Catherine and Caroline, as he announces his candidacy for president.

Outspoken Republican Senator Ted Cruz has become the first official entrant for the 2016 United States presidential race, after he took to social media yesterday to declare his White House ambitions.

"I'm running for President and I hope to earn your support!" he wrote on Twitter.

At a time when a host of other candidates are biding their time and leaving observers guessing, the 44-year-old Texas senator, who is yet to complete one term, was his usual gung-ho self.

He even skipped the traditional step of forming a committee to explore the possibility of a campaign.

For pundits, Mr Cruz's rush to be the first name in the hat was driven by two considerations - the need to lock up big donors amid an increasingly crowded field and to try to draw away some attention now focused on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

Dr John Johannes of the department of political science in Villanova University said: "The primary benefit (of being the first) is news coverage. A secondary benefit is fund raising.

"If - and it is a huge if - Cruz can get to big donors early, before his rivals, he would hope to lock up their support. That's exactly why many of the traditional big donor Republicans have been hesitant to commit. Bush, Walker and a bunch of others have been beating the bushes, as we say, to round up support."

Mr Cruz would also likely have been concerned by recent polls that have him among the least popular of a coterie of Republican hopefuls.

A CNN/ORC International survey last week put Mr Bush in front for the Republicans, with 16 per cent of the vote, while Mr Cruz languished near the end with just 4 per cent.

Mr Bush, brother of former president George W. Bush, is currently the clear Republican establishment favourite, with Mr Walker seemingly appealing to those looking for an alternative to Mr Bush. It is these two whom most Republicans feel will have the best chance of appealing to moderate swing voters, whom they will need if they are to defeat the likely Democratic nominee, Mrs Hillary Clinton.

The rest of the Republican line-up is stuffed with candidates who appear to have limited prospects for various reasons.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has developed an image as a bully, while Florida Senator Marco Rubio will see a lot of donors taken by Mr Bush.

Most do not expect Mr Cruz's gambit to unsettle the more mainstream front runners, but he may shake up the other candidates - forcing some to either announce their bid soon or drop out.

Mr Cruz is a Canadian-born son of a Cuban immigrant. If elected, he would be the first Hispanic in the White House.

Since becoming a senator in 2012, the lawyer known for wearing cowboy boots into court has sought to cast himself as an outsider and has proved to be a divisive figure even in his own party.

In 2013, he spearheaded the extreme right-wing showdown that caused a damaging government shutdown. He has shown little sign of mellowing.

A video making the rounds online this week shows him in New Hampshire delivering one of his fire-and-brimstone speeches. "The whole world is on fire," he declared, accusing US President Barack Obama of pushing a failed foreign policy.

When a three-year-old girl sitting in the front row asked about that statement, he doubled down. "Yes! Your world is on fire. But you know what? Your mummy's here and everyone's here to make sure the world you grow up in is even better."

jeremyau@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on March 24, 2015.
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