Republicans who can neither imagine Donald Trump as their party’s presidential candidate nor want him as such currently tend toward two of his rivals, the moderate Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz on the ideological far right. Both are of Cuban descent, in their mid-40s, and both embody in some way a conservative answer to Barack Obama. They campaign with an aura of youthful energy and with biographies showing their upward mobility just the way Americans like their candidates — children of penniless immigrants who attend elite universities thanks to academic assistance programs for minorities and make it to the top of the social ladder.
But Ted Cruz is the man of the hour. Iowa is the first state to hold its primary election, and he overtook Donald Trump in the polls there in mid-December and stays comfortably in the lead. In two of the other four early voting states, South Carolina and Nevada, he’s running second as he is in Florida, Rubio’s home state. New Hampshire is the only state where Rubio offers much of a fight against the high-flying Trump.
Not that Cruz has had any success in converting Trump fans to his side. He owes his ascent mainly to religious voters who happen to have considerable influence in Iowa and had previously supported Ben Carson. When Carson stumbled, Cruz wooed Carson fans with TV ads in which he presented himself as the guardian of the Ten Commandments. Besides that, he’s the candidate on whom the right wing of the party as well as the tea party faction now concentrate after their original favorites failed to achieve much success.
Cruz was born in Canada in 1970 — which may prove problematic for him since only natural born citizens may serve as president. His supporters say he already meets that criterion since his mother is American, his family having moved from Canada to Texas when Ted was four years old. He studied political science at Princeton and graduated from Harvard Law School after which he worked for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a figurehead of conservative constitutional philosophy, and he was one of President George W. Bush’s legal advisers. Since 2012, he has represented Texas in the U.S. Senate.
Cruz isn’t particularly well liked by his fellow senators because of his recklessness, and the Republican Party machinery is against him. Conservative commentators have described him as “oily.” It’s entirely possible he will best Trump in the early primaries, but another GOP presidential candidate could as well.
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