Ted Cruz to launch presidential campaign Monday

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Ted Cruz to Launch Presidential Campaign Monday

WASHINGTON (AP) - Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz has become the first major candidate for president, kicking off what's expected to be a rush over the next few weeks of more than a dozen White House hopefuls into the 2016 campaign.

"I am running for president and I hope to earn your support," the tea party favorite said in a Twitter message posted just after midnight on Monday.

Cruz will formally launch his bid during a morning speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, choosing to begin his campaign at the Christian college founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell rather than his home state of Texas or the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire. It's a fitting setting for Cruz, a 44-year-old tea party darling whose entry into the 2016 campaign drew cheers Sunday among fellow conservatives.

Amy Kremer, the former head of the Tea Party Express, said that the Republican pool of candidates "will take a quantum leap forward" with Cruz's announcement, adding that it "will excite the base in a way we haven't seen in years."

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Ted Cruz to launch presidential campaign Monday
Sen. Ted Cruz (TX-R) speaks with members of the media before attending the 2014 Lincoln Day Dinner at the Hilton Miami Airport in Miami, Friday evening, June 20, 2014. (Emily Michot/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 15: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks with a reporter in the Senate Reception Room in the Capitol on Tuesday, July 15, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - MAY 31: U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during the final day of the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference on May 31, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Leaders of the Republican Party spoke at the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference which hosted 1,500 delegates from across the country. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 3: (AFP OUT) Senator from Texas Ted Cruz attends the annual White House Correspondent's Association Gala at the Washington Hilton hotel May 3, 2014 in Washington, D.C. The dinner is an annual event attended by journalists, politicians and celebrities. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, NH - APRIL 12: U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at the Freedom Summit at The Executive Court Banquet Facility April 12, 2014 in Manchester, New Hampshire. The Freedom Summit held its inaugural event where national conservative leaders bring together grassroots activists on the eve of tax day. Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
US Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during the American Conservative Union Conference March 6, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland. The annual conference is a meeting of politically conservatives Americans. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - MARCH 06: Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at the CPAC Conference, on March 6, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland. The American Conservative Union (CPAC) held its 41st annual Conservative Political conference at the Gaylord International Hotel. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - MARCH 06: Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at the CPAC Conference, on March 6, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland. The American Conservative Union (CPAC) held its 41st annual Conservative Political conference at the Gaylord International Hotel. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
US Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas walks to participate in a cloture vote to end debate in the Senate on a bill to raise the debt limit until March 2015 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 12, 2014. The Senate later voted 55-43 to pass the debt ceiling increase and send it to US President Barack Obama for his signature. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) delivers a speech at the Heritage Foundation January 28, 2014 in Washington, DC. Cruz and others spoke about the upcoming winter Olympics in Sochi and Russia's human rights record. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (R) waits for the Senate subway after a vote January 6, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Janet Yellen was confirmed by the Senate with a vote of 56 - 26 to become the first woman to head the Federal Reserve Board. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 22: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) answers questions from the media after meeting with small business owners during the Fort Worth Small Business Roundtable on October 22, 2013 in Fort Worth, Texas. In the wake of the government shutdown, Cruz warned that the tea party shouldnt be dismissed by Washington political power players. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) answers questions from the media after meeting with Republican senators regarding a bipartisan solution for the pending budget and debt limit impasse at the U.S. Capitol October 16, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Senate announced that it had reached a bipartisan deal on funding the federal government and the extending the nation's debt limit after 16 days of a government shutdown. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks following a meeting of Senate Republicans on a solution for the pending budget and debt limit impasse at the U.S. Capitol October 16, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Senate announced that it had reached a bipartisan deal on funding the federal government and the extending the nation's debt limit after 16 days of a government shutdown. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
US Senator Ted Cruz walks to a meeting with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill October 16, 2013 in Washington, DC. US senators scrambled together an eleventh hour compromise Wednesday that they hoped might protect Washington's battered financial standing by heading off fears of a default. The Senate deal must still pass a divided and unpredictable House of Representatives, but lawmakers were hopeful it will allow the US government to reopen and keep borrowing to meet its obligations. AFp PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Senator Ted Cruz, Republican from Texas, speaks to reporters on September 25, 2013, after ending his talk-a-thon on the floor of the US Senate in Washington, DC. Cruz ended his overnight protest against the new health care program at noon. Cruz spoke for than 21 hours, opening the way for a procedural vote on the plan to finance the government only if money pulled from Obamacare. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Kay Hymel, from right, Kathy Szeszycki, both of New Orleans and Elle McKnight, third from right, of Pensacola, Fla., hold Ted Cruz signs as they listen to the senator deliver a speech to 2014 Red State Gathering attendees, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. Possible presidential candidate Cruz predicts Republicans will retake the Senate this year and that "2016 will be even better." (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pauses as he delivers a speech to 2014 Red State Gathering attendees, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. Possible presidential candidate Cruz predicts Republicans will retake the Senate this year and that "2016 will be even better." (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
WICHITA, KANSAS- OCTOBER 9: Senator Pat Roberts is joined today October 9,2014 by Senators Ted Cruz and Tom Coburn at rally in WIchita. Sen. Roberts is in a tight race against Independent Greg Orman. (Photo by Mark Reinstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 26: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at the 2014 Values Voter Summit September 26, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Family Research Council (FRC) hosting its 9th annual Values Voter Summit inviting conservatives to participate in a straw poll. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 26: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at the 2014 Values Voter Summit September 26, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Family Research Council (FRC) hosting its 9th annual Values Voter Summit inviting conservatives to participate in a straw poll. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, talks to members of the media while walking through the U.S. Capitol basement in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Dec. 12, 2014. The Senate is poised to take up a $1.1 trillion U.S. government spending bill opposed by two senators who agree on almost nothing -- Democrat Elizabeth Warren and Republican Ted Cruz. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 3: Sen. Ted Cruz(R-TX) makes remarks outside the Capitol as conservative Republicans rally against the President's immigration executive action, on December, 03, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MYRTLE BEACH, SC - JANUARY 18: Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) greets supporters at the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition convention on January 18, 2015 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. A variety of conservative presidential hopefuls spoke at the gathering on the second day of a three day event. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)
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Elected for the first time just three years ago, when he defeated an establishment figure in Texas politics with decades of experience in office, Cruz has hinted openly for more than a year that he wants to move down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Senate and into the White House.

In an online video promoted on his Twitter account, Cruz offered a preview of his campaign's message.

"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," Cruz said as images of farm fields, city skylines and American landmarks and symbols played in the background. "It's going to take a new generation of courageous conservatives to help make America great again, and I'm ready to stand with you to lead the fight."

While Cruz is the first Republican to declare his candidacy, he is all but certain to be followed by several big names in the GOP, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and two Senate colleagues, Kentucky's Rand Paul and Florida's Marco Rubio.

The Houston Chronicle first reported details about Cruz's campaign launch. His move puts him into pole position among those whose strategy to win the nomination counts on courting the party's most conservative voters, who hold an outsized influence in the Republican nominating process.

"Cruz is going to make it tough for all of the candidates who are fighting to emerge as the champion of the anti-establishment wing of the party," said GOP strategist Kevin Madden. "That is starting to look like quite a scrum where lots of candidates will be throwing some sharp elbows."

Following his election to the Senate in 2012, the former Texas solicitor general quickly established himself as an uncompromising conservative willing to take on Democrats and Republicans alike. He won praise from tea party activists in 2013 for leading the GOP's push to partially shut the federal government during an unsuccessful bid to block money for President Barack Obama's health care law.

In December, Cruz defied party leaders to force a vote on opposing Obama's executive actions on immigration. The strategy failed, and led several of his Republican colleagues to call Cruz out. "You should have an end goal in sight if you're going to do these types of things and I don't see an end goal other than irritating a lot of people," said Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch.

Such admonitions mean little to Cruz, who wins over crowds of like-minded conservative voters with his broadsides against Obama, Congress and the federal government. One of the nation's top college debaters while a student at Princeton University, Cruz continues to be a leading voice for the health law's repeal, and promises to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and scrap the Department of Education if elected president.

Last weekend in New Hampshire, one voter gave Cruz a blank check and told him to write it for whatever amount he needed.

"He's awfully good at making promises that he knows the GOP can't keep and pushing for unachievable goals, but he seems very popular with right wing," said veteran Republican strategist John Feehery. "Cruz is a lot smarter than the typical darling of the right, and that makes him more dangerous to guys like Scott Walker and Rand Paul."

The son of an American mother and Cuban-born father, Cruz would be the nation's first Hispanic president. While in New Hampshire this month, Cruz told voters his daughter, Caroline, had given him permission to join the presidential race in the hopes that the family puppy would get to play on the White House lawn instead of near their Houston high-rise condo.

"If you win, that means Snowflake will finally get a backyard to pee in," Cruz said his daughter told him.

To get there, Cruz knows he needs to reach out beyond his base. He is set to release a book this summer that he said would reflect themes of his White House campaign, and said in a recent Associated Press interview he will use it to counter the "caricatures" of the right as "stupid," ''evil" or "crazy."

"The image created in the mainstream media does not comply with the facts," he said.

More to see: Likely candidates for the GOP nomination:

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