Ted Cruz was born an American citizen in Calgary, Alberta, Canada to an American mother and Cuban father. Like many Cuban-Americans, Ted’s father Rafael Cruz fled Cuba as it fell to Communist revolutionaries, taking political asylum as a student at the University of Texas-Austin, where Ted would teach law five decades later. The younger Cruz grew up in Houston, where his father worked in the oil industry. He attended Princeton and received his law degree from Harvard Law School. As is true of much of his life, Cruz was a controversial student at Harvard. Alan Dershowitz, a renowned professor of law, called him “off the chart brilliant,” while another professor deemed him unfit for the presidency given his “fair weather originalist” views on the Constitution. As he excelled at debate and won national tournaments, many students were turned off by his ambition and unwavering opinions. They declined to elect him as student class president, to student government, or as president of the debate club.
After clerking for U.S. Chief Justice William Rehnquist and working in private practice, Cruz advised then-Texas Governor George W. Bush on domestic issues during his 2000 presidential campaign. In 2003, he became Texas’ first Hispanic solicitor general, serving in the role for five years and arguing nine cases before the Supreme Court. In 2012, he was elected Texas’ first Hispanic Senator.
As Senator, Cruz once again impressed many and alienated many more—Republicans and Democrats alike—with the aggressive tactics he has used to forward his conservative agenda. In 2013, he led a movement to shut down the government over funding Obamacare, while in July of 2015, he called out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor for what he considered a “flat-out lie” (McConnell’s promise that he did not have a deal with other members of the Republican caucus to revive the controversial Export-Import Bank). Considered a severe breach of Senate protocol, this incident, perhaps more than any other, isolated Cruz from his colleagues, leaving him with few allies in the Senate besides Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah. John McCain, a veteran Senator from Arizona and the Republican presidential nominee eight years ago, has termed Cruz a “wacko bird.”
Cruz announced his candidacy for President at Liberty University, a Christian university in Virginia, and has sold himself as a fervently anti-establishment candidate, heavily courting evangelical voters. He is a staunch opponent of Obamacare and, in addition to its repeal, has advocated for drastic reductions in the size of the federal government including an elimination of the Department of Education, the Internal Revenue Service (replacing our current tax code with a flat tax), and three other major agencies. Cruz also calls for strict enforcement of our immigration laws, the closing of our southern border with a wall and other technological means, and preventing Syrian refugees from entering the United States.
Until January of 2016, Cruz allied himself with Donald Trump in a presumed attempt to attract his supporters upon the real estate mogul’s decline, but their relationship soured as the Iowa caucuses approached and polls showed Trump and Cruz neck-and-neck. Trump and others have raised doubts regarding Cruz’s eligibility for the presidency given his Canadian birth and the legal ambiguity of the constitutional requirement that the President be a “natural-born citizen.”