Ted Cruz is running for president. The only thing left for him to do is say so.
According to sources close to the Texas senator, Cruz could be preparing for an end-of-year announcement and is now dedicating considerable time and effort to cultivating a foreign-policy foundation that might help his candidacy stand out in what is guaranteed to be a crowded field.
“At this point it’s 90/10 he’s in,” one Cruz adviser said. “And honestly, 90 is lowballing it.”
The senator’s choreography since arriving in Washington has long pointed to a presidential run. His office meticulously documents the details of his meetings and events to guard against opposition research. He has aggressively pursued visits to important primary states, including Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Late last month Cruz hired three prominent consultants with experience in national campaigns and extensive contacts in early nominating states. And he recently moved his chief of staff, Chip Roy, from his congressional office to the campaign operation, sending the clearest signal yet to allies inside and outside the Capitol that a bid for the White House is imminent.
Cruz’s allies in the conservative movement have long obsessed over the timing of his decision. The senator told some supporters earlier this year that he planned to decide by the end of 2014, lending added gravity to every new hire and early-state visit.
But while those allies monitor movement on the surface, perhaps more consequential than any addition to his staff or speech in Iowa is his crafting of a foreign policy portfolio designed to draw sharp contrasts—not just against Democratic opponents, but potential GOP rivals as well.
Indeed, ever since he played an instrumental role in last year’s government shutdown, Cruz has narrowed his agenda to focus on international affairs, both as an avenue to raise his profile among GOP donors and to pivot away from his reputation as a conservative kamikaze bent on wreaking havoc inside the halls of Congress. It’s an abrupt evolution for someone who ran for Congress just two years ago on abolishing Obamacare and extinguishing comprehensive immigration-reform efforts.
But now, with the “entire world on fire,” as Cruz says, and the Republican Party largely unified on matters of social and fiscal policy, the junior senator has made the calculation that global tumult affords him the best opportunity to stand apart from other probable contenders, in particular Rand Paul.
“I have been very clear that, in my view, the 2016 election is the most important election of our lifetimes,” Cruz told National Journal in a lengthy interview in his Senate office. “Our nation teeters on the brink of a precipice. And I believe 2016 will be an election like 1980 about two fundamentally different visions for America.”
It’s no surprise that he wouldn’t directly say whether a campaign is in the offing. But Cruz made clear he’s waging a two-front messaging war on foreign policy, attacking President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for their handling of foreign policy, while casting himself as a pragmatist who both understands the nation’s war-weariness but is not afraid to use force to defend American interests abroad.