Cruzin’ Into the 2016 Race

Somebody had to be the first proto-candidate to formally announce a 2016 presidential campaign, and it will be the classic Young Pol in a Hurry, freshman senator Ted Cruz. The fiery Texan will stake his claim to the Constitutional Conservative vote by making his announcement at Liberty University later today, according to school president Jerry Falwell, Jr., who said Cruz called him up to request the venue last week. Cruz effectively bumped Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who had been scheduled as the guest speaker at Liberty for its weekly Convocation, but chose not to share a platform with the first GOP presidential candidate in the field.

By moving first, Cruz will get some extra attention, not all of it positive: his lack of any actual accomplishments in a brief public career, other than being an unsuccessful legislative saboteur, will be duly noted. And he will obviously face stiff competition for the True Conservative mantle in what will be a crowded field.

At the risk of being a repetitive bore on this subject, I’d say those who have been trying to bury the Christian Right regularly for decades should pay attention to Cruz’s choice of Liberty, arguably the birthplace of modern politicized conservative evangelicalism, as the cradle of his 2016 campaign. As Falwell the Younger boasted in denying Liberty was quasi-endorsing Cruz by providing the backdrop for his announcement, they expect a lot of candidates this cycle to stop by to pay their respects and let their theocratic freak flag fly. Some may recall that this is where Mitt Romney made one of his first speeches as putative GOP nominee in 2012, seeking to consolidate his support among conservative evangelicals who had been voting pretty heavily for Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum during the primaries.

Santorum will certainly be eyeing Cruz’s Liberty event with some envy, as will Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, Scott Walker, and the proto-candidate who has worked hardest to make himself into the Ultimate Champion of the Christian Right, Bobby Jindal. We’ll see if Cruz finds some way to refresh the now familiar argument that secular socialists are squeezing the life out of America and persecuting the faithful with their despotic demands for marriage equality and reproductive rights and church-state separation, or if he just offers a few choruses of the same old hymn.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.