TIME Campaign Finance

How Super PACs Are Taking Over

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Paul J. Richards—AFP/Getty Images US Senator Ted Cruz( R-TX) smiles at the crowd while delivering remarks announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination to run for US president March 23, 2015, inside the full Vine Center at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Va.

A new breed of high-dollar outside groups is reshaping the 2016 presidential race

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says he no longer listens to classic rock, but he still found a way to channel the lyrics of John Lennon when he launched his presidential campaign. “Imagine,” he told students at Virginia’s Liberty University on March 23, repeating the refrain 38 times in a half-hour stem winder that felt less like a campaign speech than a guided tour of a conservative Valhalla.

The dreamy slogan may have seemed out of whack for the firebrand politician. But in some ways Cruz was just following the lead of an independent group that hopes to make him President.

Weeks before Cruz climbed onstage, the Stand for Principle PAC printed and passed out T-shirts and placards that read “Imagine Ted Cruz as President.” The group’s organizer, Maria Strollo Zack, says helping Cruz promote his message is just the start. Zack wants to raise as much as $50 million—perhaps more than the campaign—to pay for anything from television ads to grassroots outreach. “We’re rewriting the book on how super PACs can be leveraged,” she says.

So are Cruz’s rivals. Likely candidates such as Jeb Bush and Scott Walker have been deeply involved in setting up their outside-spending vehicles, installing top staff and drawing down funds to pay for early voter contact, including trips to primary states. Such efforts are the latest way to game the traditional campaign-finance system, which limits the amount of money individuals can give to candidates and forbids direct donations from corporations. The Cruz super PAC, for instance, is barred from directly coordinating campaign spending or strategy with Cruz, but it is able to raise and spend unlimited sums on the candidate’s behalf while collecting money from just about anyone.

In 2012 super PACs were used as blunt instruments of destruction: the group backing Mitt Romney devoted about 90% of the $142 million it spent overall to TV attack ads. But in the 2016 presidential race, these organizations are poised to play a much bigger role, taking over more-traditional campaign duties ranging from field organizing and voter turnout to direct mail and digital microtargeting. “They are becoming de facto campaigns,” says Fred Davis, a Republican media consultant who ran former Utah governor Jon Huntsman’s presidential super PAC in 2012.

Campaign-finance watchdogs say that super PACs, which were created in the wake of two 2010 court rulings, undermine spending limits that have governed elections for generations and allow high-dollar donors to amass influence that Congress has long sought to prevent. The new crop of super PACs are now pushing boundaries in ways that were unimaginable just five years ago. “The sky’s the limit.” says Carl Forti, a GOP strategist who co-founded the Romney super PAC in 2012.

Many Republican hopefuls have delayed their official campaign announcements so they can spend more time and energy seeding their outside groups. Bush, the former Florida governor, has been dropping in on donors’ conclaves across the Republican Party’s wealthiest precincts, soliciting massive checks for his Right to Rise super PAC. Mike Murphy, Bush’s longtime senior adviser, is expected to stay at the super PAC to orchestrate its strategy rather than migrate to the campaign.

Walker’s high-dollar outside group, Our American Revival, is run by the Wisconsin governor’s future campaign manager, Rick Wiley, who—like Walker’s spokesperson, senior political advisers and key field staff in states like Iowa and New Hampshire—is drawing a salary from the organization until the formal campaign kicks off. Former New York governor George Pataki charged up to $250,000 per head at a fundraiser for his group, We the People Not Washington, which features a form on its website for supporters to request a meeting with Pataki. And as Hillary Clinton marches toward a likely campaign launch, her super-PAC supporters at Ready for Hillary are laying the groundwork by adding to their email rolls and signing up a flurry of new members for the group’s finance council.

Much of this activity exploits a legal loophole. “What’s unique,” says Anthony Corrado, chairman of the board of trustees at the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute, “is candidates becoming associated with a super PAC before embarking on a campaign.” Building early receptacles for large checks may also limit the amount of time candidates are forced to spend raising money later on.

As the balance of power shifts toward super PACs, the strategists running them are studying the ways outside committees can be more than just attack machines once the campaigns take flight. “Every super PAC will have to decide what their mission should be and how they want to game plan,” says Austin Barbour, who will run former Texas governor Rick Perry’s super PAC if Perry jumps into the race. “But we’re in a post-TV age.” Super PACs will take on a variety of new tasks over the next year, from grassroots organizing and micro-targeting to digital operations. “Those will all be a part of any well-run super PAC this cycle,” predicts a GOP strategist running another likely presidential candidate’s outside group.

The question no one has an answer for yet is how a super PAC’s time and money can dovetail with the campaign’s efforts instead of duplicating them. Since such groups are barred from coordinating strategy with campaigns after the candidates declare, they may struggle to run complementary data or field operations. But campaign-finance watchdogs worry the rules will be flouted because there’s nobody to enforce them. “It’s open season,” says Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, who notes that three of the six members of the Federal Election Commission—the agency in charge of overseeing political spending—view money as a form of speech and are ideologically opposed to reining it in. And while the Department of Justice can prosecute violations of campaign-finance law, experts predict they will be wary of doing so except in extreme cases.

Candidates will be able to send strategic cues in public statements that super PACs can pick up on. But campaign strategists say the anything-goes legal landscape could ultimately cause problems for the indiscreet. “Someone’s going to get popped,” one predicts. “The question is who and when.”

After his speech at Liberty, Cruz began a fundraising tour that would whisk him to meetings with New York financiers, Texas investors and other executives. Within 36 hours, he said he had raised more than $1 million for his actual campaign. The cash infusion was overdue: Cruz’s coffers are already dwarfed by those of rivals like Bush. As a federal officeholder, Cruz hasn’t had the same freedom to work with his super PAC.

But the outside group will be there to help him with his stated strategy—to win the nomination by mustering a grassroots army that mixes the Tea Party faithful with the social conservatives who dominate the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses. And at the head of the brigade is an old pal: Cruz’s college roommate and debate partner David Panton, a Jamaican-born Atlanta private-equity executive who cut the super PAC its first $100,000 check last November. “I think he should be President,” Panton says. “It requires a lot of money to run a presidential campaign.”

Zack says the Senator can live on less cash than his rivals but insists that support will be there when he needs it. After all, Stand for Principle can get Cruz himself to juice fundraising by appearing at its events, as long as he does not ask for the money directly. Just imagine the possibilities.

With reporting by Zeke J. Miller and Michael Scherer/Washington

Read next: 3 Things Ted Cruz Could Learn From Taylor Swift

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TIME 2016 Election

Ted Cruz Is Signing Up for Obamacare

Despite being vehemently opposed to Obamacare

Ted Cruz is signing up for insurance under President Obama’s health care law.

The Texas Republican Senator and newly-announced presidential candidate, known for his staunch opposition to the Affordable Care Act, told CNN on Tuesday that he will be joining the millions of Americans enrolled in insurance under the law.

“I believe we should follow the text of every law, even [a] law I disagree with,” Cruz said. “It’s one of the real differences—if you look at President Obama and the lawlessness, if he disagrees with a law he simply refuses to follow it or claims the authority to unilaterally change.”

Cruz, who announced his candidacy on Monday, will no longer have health insurance after his wife went on unpaid leave from her Goldman Sachs position.

MORE: Read TIME‘s 2013 profile of Texas Senator Ted Cruz

[CNN]

TIME Rand Paul

Why Rand Paul is Attacking Ted Cruz

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Paul J. Richards—AFP/Getty Images US Senator Ted Cruz( R-TX) smiles at the crowd while delivering remarks announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination to run for US president March 23, 2015, inside the full Vine Center at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Va.

Rand Paul has his sights set on Ted Cruz.

As his Lone Star colleague, Sen. Ted Cruz, announced his candidacy Monday, Paul took to Twitter, asking his following to retweet a two part message: “Stand with … Rand.” His supporters at Virginia’s Liberty University got it, trolling the cameras in red shirts with Paul’s mantra.

Several hours later, Paul went on Fox News’ The Kelly File, which aired an hour before Cruz appeared on Sean Hannity’s show. Paul attacked Cruz for being unable to spread his message past his speech’s largely favorable Christian audience, which, as Paul noted at least twice, were composed of students “required” to attend.

“Ted Cruz is a conservative, but it also goes to winnability,” said Paul, noting that he’s traveled to liberal redoubts like Berkeley, Calif., and spoken at historically black colleges. “I’ve spent the last couple years going places Republicans haven’t gone and maybe not just throwing out red meat but actually throwing out something intellectually enticing to people who haven’t been listening to our message before.”

“That’s the way you win general elections,” he added.

Paul’s double-barreled Internet and TV attacks came before he officially enters the race — he has scheduled a major announcement on April 7 followed by a tour of the early primary states. But they show his primary problem: he is largely competing for the same slices of conservative voters with Cruz even as he tries to expand the traditional Republican electorate.

“I didn’t find much I disagreed with,” said Paul of Cruz’s speech on Fox. “We kind of come from the same wing of the party and if you look at our voting records you’ll find that we’re very, very similar.”

The two conservative senators approach politics through different ideological frames: Paul’s a libertarian who wants a bigger tent in the GOP; Cruz is a conservative who wants to turn out more of the base. “Today, roughly half of born again Christians aren’t voting,” he said in his campaign announcement. “They’re staying home. Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values.”

Read More: Full Text of Sen. Ted Cruz’s Campaign Launch


But in the Senate, their different paths have often led to the same destination. Both wish to “abolish the IRS,” rein in the National Security Agency, remove the chain of command in military sexual assault cases, pass a flat tax, see states scale back Common Core education standards, reform mandatory minimum sentencing, secure the borders before any type of immigration reform, repeal Obamacare and oppose aid to Syrian rebels. In 2013, several months after Cruz supported Paul’s filibuster over U.S. drone policy, Paul supported Cruz’s 21 plus hours of an anti-Obamacare tirade.

The main differences between the two are stylistic. Paul is running a freewheeling campaign, trying to appeal to constituencies Cruz isn’t addressing, while bucking the GOP leadership on foreign policy issues like normalizing relations with Cuba. But Paul has worked the Senate chamber much better, lining up support from fellow Kentuckian Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, while Cruz has failed to do the same from his Texas colleague, Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn. Both of those members of the leadership team are still incensed with Cruz’s strategy protesting the implementation of Obamacare in 2013 that led to a government shutdown, which briefly battered the party’s image.

The fight between the Tea Party senators extends from the same voters to the same staff. A few top operatives in Cruz’s backyard have jumped to Paul, including Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri and Cruz’s digital strategist, Vince Harris, who orchestrated the nifty little trick of popping up Rand PAC ads every time you searched “Ted Cruz” on Google Monday.

But just Tuesday the New York Times reported that Cruz has recruited three Iowa leaders from Paul’s libertarian base. The polls for the next presidential election don’t close for another 595 days, but the early jockeying between the two colleagues has already begun.

TIME 2016 Election

Ted Cruz Doesn’t Own TedCruz.Com

Ted Cruz Announcement
Tom Williams — Roll Call/Getty Images Sen. Ted Cruz speaks during a convocation at Liberty University's Vines Center in Lynchburg, Va., where he announced his candidacy for president on March 23, 2015.

An Obama supporter does

Sen. Ted Cruz may have been the first Republican to declare his candidacy for the 2016 presidential race, but he appears to have missed the boat on purchasing a web domain featuring his own name.

Instead, web users landing at tedcruz.com see only two phrases: “Support President Obama” and “Immigration Reform Now!”

With the .com domain out of the picture, the Texas senator has officially settled with tedcruz.org, instead.

TIME politics

What the Supreme Court Could Say About Ted Cruz’s Canadian Past

US-VOTE-REPUBLICANS
Paul J. Richards—AFP/Getty Images US Senator Ted Cruz( R-TX) smiles at the crowd while delivering remarks announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination to run for US president March 23, 2015, inside the full Vine Center at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Va.

The 'natural born citizen' clause has never really been tested

When Sen. Ted Cruz launched his presidential campaign Monday at Liberty University, he began by telling his parents’ stories of immigration from Cuba, on his father’s part, and overcoming the odds at home, on his mother’s part. One much-discussed element of Cruz’s personal story, however, got only a brief nod: “When I was three, my father decided to leave my mother and me,” Cruz told the audience. “We were living in Calgary at the time.”

Calgary, though part of Cruz’s American story, is not in the United States; it’s in Alberta, Canada. Though Cruz was born in Alberta, he only learned as an adult that his birthplace gave him Canadian citizenship, which he officially renounced last summer.

Though it’s a common misconception, being born in Canada does not necessarily exclude Cruz, the child of an American citizen, from the White House. In fact, he’s one of many potential presidents over the years who have been born abroad.

The confusing constitutional clause behind that misconception — “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President,” per Article II — most recently made news with the campaigns of John McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone. As the New York Times laid out during his 2008 campaign, being born to a military officer in a military zone, as McCain was, was seen as largely uncontroversial, even though legal experts still debate whether “natural born” means “born in the U.S.” or merely “not naturalized later in life.” The real issue is that the Supreme Court has never really had to say either way. The natural-born citizen qualification is untested in practice, and it’s not even clear who would have legal standing to challenge a president like McCain or Cruz on that matter.

Further, as TIME explained in a 1962 article about the candidacy of George Romney (Mitt Romney’s father, who was born in Mexico because his grandfather had fled there to avoid U.S. antipolygamy laws), that hypothetical legal challenger would have a tough case:

His Mexican birth has raised some questions about Romney’s constitutional qualifications for the presidency. Article Two of the Constitution specifies that only a “natural-born citizen” is eligible. Some legal authorities say that this means only those born on U.S. soil. But a law enacted by the first Congress in 1790 stipulated that children born of U.S. citizens beyond the boundaries of the country “shall be considered as natural-born citizens of the U.S.”

In theory, that 1790 law could be unconstitutional too, were the natural-born citizen issue to make it to the Supreme Court — but, on this count, Cruz has an even harsher challenger to overcome. Nobody who would have provided the opportunity to put the law to the test has ever actually won the election. Other born-abroad politicians in the Times round-up include a Connecticut Senator born in Paris and FDR’s son Franklin Jr., who was born in Canada.

The closest the country has ever come to having a President not born on its soil (or, alternatively, living there at the time of the founding) was in the late 1800s, with Chester A. Arthur — maybe.

Arthur ended up in the White House in 1881, having served as the Vice-President for James Garfield, who died of complications from wounds sustained during an attempted (and ultimately successful) assassination. Though Arthur’s official biography at the White House lists his birthdate as 1829 and the place as Fairfield, Vt., both the year and the place have been challenged over the years. As the Associated Press explained in a 2009 story about the Chester A. Arthur Historic Site — his purported birthplace — rivals claimed that Arthur was actually born in Canada, where his mother’s family lived.

Records from the 1820s were predictably shoddy, and there has never been any way to prove 100% where Arthur was born. Should Cruz win the race in 2016, he’ll be the first President definitely born in Canada — and the first definite chance, unlikely though it may be, for the Supreme Court to test and define the clause in question.

Read next: How Ted Cruz is Using Spanish in His Presidential Campaign

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TIME ted cruz

Ted Cruz Launches Presidential Campaign at School Known For Glass Ceilings

Senator Ted Cruz(R-TX) delivers remarks before announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination to run for president on March 23, 2015, at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Paul J. Richards—AFP/Getty Images Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) delivers remarks before announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination to run for president on March 23, 2015, at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia.

He offers a message of female empowerment at a school with few women leaders

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz launched his campaign for the presidency Monday with effusive praise for the boundary-breaking women in his life and a call for mothers, sisters and daughters to join his coming campaign.

“The answer will not come from Washington,” he said of the challenges facing the nation. “It will come only from the men and women across this country—from men and women, from people of faith, from lovers of liberty, from people who respect the Constitution.”

In a speech at Liberty University, the world’s largest Christian school, he praised the entrepreneurship of his wife, Heidi, a managing director at Goldman Sachs, who started in business as a child, baking bread and selling it at a nearby apple farm. His mother, he said in video message earlier in the day, was “a pioneer in computer science, smashing glass ceilings at a time when women were discouraged from following their dreams.” Her father, he continued in the speech, “frankly didn’t think that women should be educated.”

The praise for gender equality was all the more resonant—or perhaps discordant—because of the setting. Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., bars women as a matter of theology from becoming pastors or holding high-ranking roles of church leadership. In fact, the leadership at Liberty, where more than half the student population is female, is almost entirely male.

The school’s executive leadership is composed of 21 men and one woman, the executive vice president and vice-president of human resources. Liberty University’s Board of Trustees is comprised of 38 men and two women whose husbands also serve on the board: Beverly LaHaye, founder of Concerned Women for America, and Gaye Overton Benson, for whose family the Liberty School of Business is named. The 32 positions on the committees of the Board of Trustees are also filled entirely by men.

Likewise, all of the faculty are male at Liberty University’s Baptist Theological Seminary, where despite the ban on women becoming pastors, women can receive degrees. At the larger school, just over half of the residential student body is female, and just more than 60% of the online student population is female. “Women need to be advised that few opportunities presently exist for ordination of women among Baptist churches and Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary supports the Baptist Faith and Message as amended by the Southern Baptist Convention of June 2000,” the school tells applicants on its website.

The larger Southern Baptist Convention believes the bible bars women from becoming pastors. “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture,” reads the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

There are some programs specifically designed for women. Liberty has a Center for Women’s Ministries, which educates “today’s woman in basic principles of Biblical femininity” and seeks to equip her “to effectively evangelize and disciple other women living in America and throughout the world,” according to its website. Career opportunities for women with this focus, the site says, include women’s ministry directors, teen girls’ leaders, and event planners.

Christine Caine, an activist with Hillsong Church in Australia, partnered with the school in January to launch a broader initiative called “Propel” to equip Christian women for broader leadership, especially when they work outside the home. “For generations, women have navigated the nuances of being a woman in leadership without a roadmap,” Caine said in a news release. “Gaps in leadership training have forced women to compartmentalize their lives, separating work, church, home and personal life.”

Liberty’s glass ceilings—and those of the religious constituency Liberty signifies and that Cruz is trying to court—could complicate his message going forward. In his announcement speech, Cruz cast himself as a values candidate, with a view of American history centered around faith. “What is the promise of America?” he asked at one point in his speech. “The idea that—the revolutionary idea that this country was founded upon, which is that our rights don’t come from man. They come from God Almighty.”

Stylistically, his speech had more in common with Sunday preaching than a traditional campaign address. He roamed the circular stage, often turning his back to the television cameras, with a microphone affixed to his neck, telling the stories of redemption that lifted his family, and charting a road map for lifting the nation. “Today, roughly half of born again Christians aren’t voting,” he said. “They’re staying home. Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values.”

TIME 2016 Election

How Ted Cruz is Using Spanish in His Presidential Campaign

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Paul J. Richards—AFP/Getty Images US Senator Ted Cruz( R-TX) smiles at the crowd while delivering remarks announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination to run for US president March 23, 2015, inside the full Vine Center at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Va.

Ted Cruz para presidente

In 2012, then-Senate candidate Ted Cruz refused to debate his opponent in Spanish. Aside from being a “lousy” Spanish speaker, Cruz argued it was a bad idea: “Most Texans speak English … [My opponent] wants to do a debate in a language where the vast majority of primary voters don’t understand it, because he doesn’t want them to hear about his record.”

But when he launched his presidential campaign Monday, the Texas Republican posted a Spanish language ad on YouTube. In keeping with his previous argument, however, the ad does not feature any discussion of policy, instead focusing only on Cruz’s personal story.

“The story of Ted Cruz is like the story of many American families,” the ad begins (in Spanish). It then talks about how his father was a Cuban immigrant, and how Cruz was raised to believe in what America represents: “Faith, liberty and opportunity.”

The ad differs from one in English posted at the same time, which mentions his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, the debt ceiling increase and President Obama’s executive action on immigration.

Cruz does not speak Spanish, but the ad is a sign that he hopes to compete with the other 2016 contenders who have inroads to the Hispanic community: Jeb Bush, who is fluent in Spanish and married to a Mexican woman, and Marco Rubio, the bilingual son of Cuban-American immigrants.

Still, it won’t do much for Cruz in the crucial early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, which don’t have substantial Latino populations. The first time Spanish will likely come into play in the election will be in Florida, which has the third-largest Hispanic population in the country after California and Texas.

But the existence of the ad can be a selling point. After the 2012 election, the Republican Party put together a post-mortem report that argued that the party needs to do a better job of reaching out to minorities. The ad is one way to signal to the conservative base that Cruz thinks he can do just that in a general election campaign with Hispanics, who make up 17% of the nation.

Some experts say the fact that Cruz doesn’t speak Spanish himself isn’t a big problem. “It is obviously heartening to the community when someone speaks to them in Spanish, and it is an asset they can use on television and radio,” Henry Cisneros, former mayor of San Antonio, Texas, told the Wall Street Journal. “But increasingly it is not essential … It’s not unusual to find second- and third-generation Latinos who don’t speak Spanish because they grew up in a completely integrated society.”

Cruz has even argued that Latinos should not learn Spanish, opposing bilingual education for recent immigrants and urging Spanish speakers to learn English, using sometimes controversial language.

“When my father came over here penniless with $100 sewn into his underwear, thank God some well-meaning liberal didn’t come put his arm around him and say, ‘Let me take care of you. Let me put you on the government dole [and] rob you of your self respect,” he said in 2012. “And by the way, don’t bother to learn English. Let me keep you in a language ghetto.”

Still, it will take more than Spanish ads to win over Latino voters. Two of the policy positions Cruz doesn’t mention in his YouTube ad — his opposition to immigration reform and his plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act — are unpopular in the Hispanic community. (Polling by the Pew Research Center shows two-thirds of Hispanic voters back immigration reform, while 47 percent approve of Obamacare, tied with its disapproval rate but six percentage points above the public overall.)

TIME 2016 Election

Transcript: Read Full Text of Sen. Ted Cruz’s Campaign Launch

Senator Ted Cruz(R-TX) delivers remarks before announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination to run for president on March 23, 2015, at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Paul J. Richards—AFP/Getty Images Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) delivers remarks before announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination to run for president on March 23, 2015, at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Sen. Ted Cruz launched his presidential campaign Monday with a speech at Liberty University, a private Christian college in Virginia.

Here is a transcript of the full remarks.

Thank you so much, President Falwell. God bless Liberty University. I am thrilled to join you today at the largest Christian university in the world.

Today I want to talk with you about the promise of America.

Imagine your parents when they were children. Imagine a little girl growing up in Wilmington, Delaware during World War II, the daughter of Irish and Italian Catholic family, working class. Her uncle ran numbers in Wilmington. She grew up with dozens of cousins because her mom was the second youngest of 17 kids. She had a difficult father, a man who drank far too much, and frankly didn’t think that women should be educated.

And yet this young girl, pretty and shy, was driven, was bright, was inquisitive, and she became the first person in her family ever to go to college. In 1956, my mom, Eleanor, graduated from Rice University with a degree in math and became a pioneering computer programmer in the 1950s and 1960s.

Imagine a teenage boy, not much younger than many of you here today, growing up in Cuba. Jet black hair, skinny as a rail.

Involved in student council, and yet Cuba was not at a peaceful time. The dictator, Batista, was corrupt, he was oppressive. And this teenage boy joins a revolution. He joins a revolution against Batista, he begins fighting with other teenagers to free Cuba from the dictator. This boy at age 17 finds himself thrown in prison, finds himself tortured, beaten. And then at age 18, he flees Cuba, he comes to America.

Imagine for a second the hope that was in his heart as he rode that ferry boat across to Key West, and got on a Greyhound bus to head to Austin, Texas to begin working, washing dishes, making 50 cents an hour, coming to the one land on earth that has welcomed so many millions.

When my dad came to America in 1957, he could not have imagined what lay in store for him. Imagine a young married couple, living together in the 1970s, neither one of them has a personal relationship with Jesus. They have a little boy and they are both drinking far too much. They are living a fast life.

Read More: How Ted Cruz Plans to Disrupt the GOP Presidential Primary

When I was three, my father decided to leave my mother and me. We were living in Calgary at the time, he got on a plane and he flew back to Texas, and he decided he didn’t want to be married anymore and he didn’t want to be a father to his 3-year-old son. And yet when he was in Houston, a friend, a colleague from the oil and gas business invited him to a Bible study, invited him to Clay Road Baptist Church, and there my father gave his life to Jesus Christ.

And God transformed his heart. And he drove to the airport, he bought a plane ticket, and he flew back to be with my mother and me.

There are people who wonder if faith is real. I can tell you, in my family there’s not a second of doubt, because were it not for the transformative love of Jesus Christ, I would have been saved and I would have been raised by a single mom without my father in the household.

Imagine another little girl living in Africa, in Kenya and Nigeria. That’s a diverse crowd. Playing with kids, they spoke Swahili, she spoke English. Coming back to California.

Where her parents who had been missionaries in Africa raised her on the Central Coast. She starts a small business when she’s in grade school baking bread. She calls it Heidi’s Bakery. She and her brother compete baking bread. They bake thousands of loaves of bread and go to the local apple orchard where they sell the bread to people coming to pick apples. She goes on to a career in business, excelling and rising to the highest pinnacles, and then Heidi becomes my wife and my very best friend in the world.

Heidi becomes an incredible mom to our two precious little girls, Caroline and Catherine, the joys and loves of our life.

Imagine another teenage boy being raised in Houston, hearing stories from his dad about prison and torture in Cuba, hearing stories about how fragile liberty is, beginning to study the United States Constitution, learning about the incredible protections we have in this country that protect the God-given liberty of every American. Experiencing challenges at home.

In the 1980s, oil prices crater and his parents business go bankrupt. Heading off to school over a thousand miles away from home, in a place where he knew nobody, where he was alone and scared, and his parents going through bankruptcy meant there was no financial support at home, so at the age of 17, he went to get two jobs to help pay his way through school.

He took over $100,000 in school loans, loans I suspect a lot of y’all can relate to, loans that I’ll point out I just paid off a few years ago.

These are all of our stories. These are who we are as Americans.
And yet, for so many Americans, the promise of America seems more and more distant. What is the promise of America? The idea that — the revolutionary idea that this country was founded upon, which is that our rights don’t come from man. They come from God Almighty.

And that the purpose of the Constitution, as Thomas Jefferson put it, is to serve as chains to bind the mischief of government.

The incredible opportunity of the American dream, what has enabled millions of people from all over the world to come to America with nothing and to achieve anything. And then the American exceptionalism that has made this nation a clarion voice for freedom in the world, a shining city on a hill.

That’s the promise of America. That is what makes this nation an indispensable nation, a unique nation in the history of the world.
And yet, so many fear that that promise is today unattainable. So many fear it is slipping away from our hands.

I want to talk to you this morning about reigniting the promise of America: 240 years ago on this very day, a 38-year-old lawyer named Patrick Henry stood up just a hundred miles from here in Richmond, Virginia, and said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

I want to ask each of you to imagine, imagine millions of courageous conservatives, all across America, rising up together to say in unison “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.

Today millions of young people are scared, worried about the future, worried about what the future will hold. Imagine millions of young people coming together and standing together, saying “we will stand for liberty.”

Think just how different the world would be. Imagine instead of economic stagnation, booming economic growth.

Instead of small businesses going out of business in record numbers, imagine small businesses growing and prospering. Imagine young people coming out of school with four, five, six job offers.

Imagine innovation thriving on the Internet as government regulators and tax collectors are kept at bay and more and more opportunity is created.

Imagine America finally becoming energy self-sufficient as millions and millions of high-paying jobs are created.

Five years ago today, the president signed Obamacare into law. Within hours, Liberty University went to court filing a lawsuit to stop that failed law. Instead of the joblessness, instead of the millions forced into part-time work, instead of the millions who’ve lost their health insurance, lost their doctors, have faced skyrocketing health insurance premiums, imagine in 2017 a new president signing legislation repealing every word of Obamacare.

Imagine health care reform that keeps government out of the way between you and your doctor and that makes health insurance personal and portable and affordable.

Instead of a tax code that crushes innovation, that imposes burdens on families struggling to make ends met, imagine a simple flat tax that lets every American fill out his or her taxes on a postcard.

Imagine abolishing the IRS.

Instead of the lawlessness and the president’s unconstitutional executive amnesty, imagine a president that finally, finally, finally secures the borders.

And imagine a legal immigration system that welcomes and celebrates those who come to achieve the American dream.

Instead of a federal government that wages an assault on our religious liberty, that goes after Hobby Lobby, that goes after the Little Sisters of the Poor, that goes after Liberty University, imagine a federal government that stands for the First Amendment rights of every American.

Instead of a federal government that works to undermine our values, imagine a federal government that works to defend the sanctity of human life and to uphold the sacrament of marriage.

Instead of a government that works to undermine our Second Amendment rights, that seeks to ban our ammunition, imagine a federal government that protects the right to keep and bear arms of all law-abiding Americans.

Instead of a government that seizes your emails and your cell phones, imagine a federal government that protected the privacy rights of every American.

Instead of a federal government that seeks to dictate school curriculum through Common Core, imagine repealing every word of Common Core.

Imagine embracing school choice as the civil rights issue of the next generation. That every single child, regardless of race, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of wealth or ZIP code, every child in America has a right to a quality education. And that’s true from all of the above, whether it is at public schools or charter schools or private schools or Christian schools or parochial schools or home schools — every child.

Instead of a president who boycotts Prime Minister Netanyahu, imagine a president who stands unapologetically with the nation of Israel.

Instead of a president who seeks to go to the United Nations to end-run Congress and the American people, imagine a president who says I will honor the Constitution and under no circumstances will Iran be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.

Imagine a president who says we will stand up and defeat radical Islamic terrorism, and we will call it by its name. We will defend the United States of America.

Now all of these seem difficult. Indeed to some, they may seem unimaginable. And yet if you look in the history of our country … Imagine it’s 1775 and you and I were sitting there in Richmond listening to Patrick Henry say “Give me liberty or give me death.” Imagine it’s 1776 and we were watching the 54 signers of the Declaration of the Independence stand together and pledge their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to igniting the promise of America.

Imagine it was 1777 and we were watching General Washington as he lost battle after battle after battle in the freezing cold as his soldiers with no shoes were dying fighting for freedom against the most powerful army in the world. That too seemed unimaginable.

Imagine it’s 1933 and we were listening to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt tell America at a time of crushing Depression at a time of a gathering storm abroad that we have nothing to fear but fear itself.

Imagine it’s 1979 and you and I were listening to Ronald Reagan and he was telling us that we would cut the top marginal tax rate from 70 percent all the way to (unclear) percent. That we would go from crushing stagnation to booming economic growth to millions being lifted out of poverty and into prosperity and abundance. That the very day he was sworn in, our hostages who were languishing in Iran would be released and that within a decade we would win the Cold War and tear the Berlin Wall to the ground. That would have seemed unimaginable, and yet with the grace of God, that’s exactly what happened.

From the dawn of this country, at every stage America has enjoyed God’s providential blessing. Over and over again, when we faced impossible odds, the American people rose to the challenge. You know, compared to that, repealing Obamacare and abolishing the IRS ain’t all that tough! The power of the American people when we rise up and stand for liberty knows no bounds.

If you’re ready to join a grassroots army across this nation, coming together and standing for liberty, I’m going to ask you to break a rule here today and to take our your cell phones and to text the word CONSTITUTION to the number 33733. You can also text IMAGINE, we’re versatile. Once again, text CONSTITUTION to 33733.

God’s blessing has been on America from the very beginning of this nation and I believe God isn’t done with America yet. I believe in you. I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives rising up to reignite the promise of America. And that is why today, I am announcing that I am running for president of the United States.

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, to reclaim the mandate, the hope and opportunity 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, from men and women, from people of faith, from lovers of liberty, to protect the Constitution, it will only come as it has come at every other time of challenge in this country, when the American people stand together and say we will get back to the principles that have made this country great. We will get back and restore that shining city on a hill that is the United States of America.

Thank you and God bless you.

TIME 2016 Election

Ted Cruz Launches Presidential Campaign at Liberty University

Ted Cruz
Andrew Harnik—AP U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) stands on stage while speaking to a crowd gathered to announce his presidential candidacy at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. on March 23, 2015.

"I believe God isn't done with America yet."

Sen. Ted Cruz launched his presidential campaign with a convocation — a speech that fused religious themes with political arguments and his family’s personal stories.

In a speech at Liberty University, the Texas Republican talked about the effects of “the transformative love of Jesus Christ” on his father and outlined a conservative platform that includes abolishing the IRS and repealing the Affordable Care Act.

“God has blessed America from the very beginning of this nation, and I believe God isn’t done with America yet,” he said.

The first candidate of either party to officially kick off a campaign, Cruz staked out a position on the conservative side of the Republican field, calling for a flat tax that would allow Americans to do their annual tax returns on a postcard, securing the border with Mexico and opposing gun control legislation.

In a veiled shot at GOP frontrunner Jeb Bush, Cruz also criticized Common Core, a set of academic standards put together by a bipartisan group of governors and promoted by the Obama Administration.

Cruz began the speech by talking about his parents’ immigrant stories: his father, who fled Cuba during political turmoil, and his mother, who became the first in her family to go to college. He then shared how his father became a Christian during a troubled time in his marriage.

“There are people who wonder if faith is real,” he said. “I can tell you in my family there is not a second of doubt, because were it not for the transformative love of Jesus Christ … Iwould have been raised by a single mom without my father in the household.”

He ended by calling for conservative Christians to stand up, repeating an argument made by evangelist Franklin Graham and others that a majority of Christians don’t vote.

Read More: How Common Core Will Complicate Jeb Bush’s Campaign

“Today, roughly half of born-again Christians aren’t voting; they’re staying home,” he said. “Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values.”

The speech was Cruz’s first public appearance since he tweeted Sunday night that he would be running. A 30-second video released Monday morning stressed his father’s immigration from Cuba and his opposition to the Affordable Care Act and President Obama’s executive actions deferring deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants.

Read More: A TIME profile of Ted Cruz from 2013

As TIME’s Alex Altman writes, the timing of Cruz’s announcement — in the final weeks of a federal fundraising period — shows that he’s willing to disrupt the typical routines of a presidential campaign.

A recent CNN poll showed Cruz toward the bottom of the crowded Republican field, with just four percent support. However, Bush, had only 13 percent in the same poll.

TIME 2016 Election

See 10 Presidential Campaign Launches

The journey to the White House begins with one step: the campaign announcement. Here's a look at some recent ones.

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