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Ted Cruz has launched his presidential bid. His model? Ronald Reagan.

Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

  1. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced that he's running for president early Monday morning, in a tweet.
  2. Cruz joined the Senate in 2013, and was solicitor general of Texas from 2003 to 2008.
  3. He is the first major candidate, either Democrat or Republican, to officially announce a presidential campaign.
  4. Cruz's in-person announcement will be at Liberty University. Founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Liberty describes itself as "the largest Christian university in the world."

Cruz has made a big splash for a freshman senator

Though Ted Cruz just joined the Senate in 2013, he's already had a far greater impact on policy than most freshman senators — though in a very controversial way.

It was Cruz who argued most strongly that Republicans should refuse to fund Obamacare in 2013. The House GOP adopted his strategy, and this hardline approach led to a 16-day government shutdown that October. Republicans were blamed for the shutdown, and the party's popularity briefly sank.

Yet the GOP still ended up winning landslide victories in the 2014 midterm elections. This has led many conservatives — including Cruz — to argue that their anti-Obamacare strategy was not, in fact, a mistake. "Republicans need to actually do what we say we'll do," Cruz said last year. "It was not a mistake for Republicans to stand up and fight Obamacare."

Cruz's strengths: charisma and conservatism

Cruz is likely jumping in because he sees a vacuum in the GOP's 2016 field — despite the plethora of potential candidates, there's no one strong conservative who's both charismatic and rock-solidly against immigration reform.

Loved by conservative activists, Cruz is extremely skilled at giving a red-meat speech to cheering crowds. "He will easily get elected president of Conservative America," Jim Geraghty of National Review wrote in January. Cruz is also an extremely skillful debater, and will use those debates as a platform to carve up his rivals for their insufficient conservatism. Jeb Bush will surely face some awkward moments on a debate stage with Cruz.

Cruz is hoping to appeal to both Tea Party voters and socially conservative Christians, as the choice of Liberty University as an announcement venue indicates. In the last two GOP nomination fights, evangelical conservatives ended up backing Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, both of whom had little support from other elements of the party. Cruz hopes that his strong social conservatism will win over the Christian right, and that his conservatism on immigration, Obamacare, and economic issues will win over the less overtly religious Tea Party supporters.

On immigration in particular, Cruz vociferously argues against any proposal that would give "amnesty" to unauthorized immigrants. Likely candidates like Scott Walker and Marco Rubio have previously supported proposals to legalize unauthorized immigrants' status, and Jeb Bush still does. So Cruz will certainly hammer his rivals on this issue during the primary.

Though he rarely emphasizes this, Cruz would also be the first Hispanic major-party presidential nominee. His father emigrated from Cuba, and his mother was born in Delaware.

Cruz's weaknesses: insiders hate him and he may seem too extreme to win

Yet Cruz has two huge problems. First of all, many Republican elites despise him for his loose-cannon approach. The Washington Post's George Will has said that Cruz "is frankly loathed by the GOP caucus," and that he "is completely indifferent to the fact that politics is a team sport. ABC's Jonathan Karl said during the shutdown battle that Cruz is "so hated" by Senate Republicans that he'd "need a food taster" at their weekly lunch. Cruz will argue that he'll take his case to rank-and-file activists, but party elites play an important role in choosing the nominee, so this will be a real difficulty for him.

Second, and perhaps more important, Cruz seems to many to be too extreme to win a general election. He is best known for shutting down the government, after all. And, even now, some of the proposals he pushes — like one to abolish the IRS and move all of its agents to help secure our southern border — seem more like red-meat applause lines than serious policies.

In his appearance at CPAC last month, Cruz pushed back against both of these criticisms — by arguing, essentially, that he was the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan, and that his nomination would lead to a Reaganesque landslide win. "It was 40 years ago at CPAC that President Reagan said the path to victory is not pale pastels but bold colors," he said. "I am convinced 2016 is going to be an election very much like 1980." He added, "It's worth remembering, when Reagan ran, Washington despised Reagan."

But others will surely argue that the best historical parallel to Cruz isn't Ronald Reagan but Barry Goldwater — the hardcore conservative nominated in 1964 who led his party to a historic landslide defeat by Lyndon Johnson. Cruz will face an uphill battle in convincing voters otherwise.

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