Senator Ted Cruz of Texas announced that he would run for president in 2016 during a speech at Liberty University on Monday, appealing to Christian Conservatives and emphasizing that "God's not done with America yet."
"God's blessing has been on America from the very beginning of the nation, and I believe God is not done with America yet. I believe in you, I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives to reignite the promise of America, and that is why, today, I am announcing that I am running for president of the United States," Cruz, who is the first Republican candidate to declare himself officially in the race, told thousands of cheering students.
"It is a time for truth. It is a time for liberty. It is a time to reclaim the Constitution of the United States. I am honored to stand with each and every one of you courageous conservatives as we come together to reclaim the promise of America, the mandate, the hope for our children and our children's children. We stand together for liberty. This is our fight. The answer will not come from Washington; it will come only from the men and women across this country. It will only come as it has come at every other time in this country, when men and women will stand up and restore that shining city on a hill," Cruz said.
The 44 year old Senator shared the story of his parents, particularly focusing on his father, who immigrated from Cuba in the 1950's and eventually became a Christian, to emphasize his belief in the power of God.
"God transformed his heart," he said, "and he flew back to be with my mother and me. There are people who wonder if faith is real. I can tell you that in my family, there is not a second of doubt."
Flanked by his wife, Heidi, and two young daughters, Mr. Cruz also applauded the liberty found only in the United States, but warned that it is slowly slipping away.
"What is the promise of America? The revolutionary idea we were founded on - the rights that come not from man but from God Almighty. The purpose of the Constitution is to serve as chains to the mischief of government. The American exceptionalism has made this country ... a shining city on the hill. Yet so many fear that that promise today is unattainable. I want to talk to you this morning about reigniting the promise of America. Imagine millions of conservative Americans rising up together and saying, 'We demand our liberty.' Today, roughly half of born-again Christians aren't voting; they're staying home. Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values," Cruz said. "Think how different the world would be."
The Senator asked audience members to "imagine a President" who would repeal the Affordable Care Act, abolish the Internal Revenue Service, defend the sanctity of human life and uphold the sacrament of marriage.
"Imagine a president that stands unapologetically with the nation of Israel," he said to a standing ovation from the crowd. "Imagine a president who says we will stand up and defeat radical Islam and we will call it by its name. We will defend the United States of America."
Senator Cruz first announced his decision to run for President in a tweet posted just after midnight Monday.
"I'm running for President and I hope to earn your support!" Cruz tweeted with a link to a 30 second ad, in which he called on a "new generation of courageous conservatives to make America great again."
"It's a time for truth, a time to rise to the challenge just as Americans have always done. I believe in America and her people and I believe we can stand up and restore our promise," he said in the ad. "It's going to take a new generation of courageous conservatives to make America great again and I'm ready to stand with you to lead the fight," he said.
Senator Cruz has emerged as a favorite among Evangelical Christian and Conservatives over the past two years due to his outspoken faith and unyielding stance on hot-button issues including abortion, homosexuality, and healthcare.
"He hasn't really moved to the middle on any major issues," Texas-based Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak told CBS News last week. "He probably is the favorite among the grassroots, because he is a really solid conservative on all three legs of the stool - social, fiscal, and national security. No one speaks to the concerns of the grassroots with greater effect than Ted Cruz. He's the whole package."
And despite entering the Republican primary field with weaker prior-year poll numbers than anyone since 2000, experts say Cruz's candidacy "should not be underestimated."
"He has had the single best sound bite over the last three years, saying that the big problem in Washington is we don't listen," said Frank Luntz, a longtime Republican pollster told the New York Times. "That message transcends ideology and partisanship, because so many in the public think Washington is out of touch."