"I love this country," he said minutes after announcing his intention to seek the nation's highest political office. "I love my two little girls, Caroline and Catherine, and I think our country is in crisis. I think their future is in crisis."
I'm running for President and I hope to earn your support! pic.twitter.com/0UTqaIoytP— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) March 23, 2015
Cruz officially got into the race just after midnight, posting a video message on the social networking site Twitter. Why announce on Twitter?
"Well," he explained, "because I think this is going to be a campaign from the people, and Twitter is a wonderful tool to communicate and empower the grassroots."
During his speech Monday, Cruz seemed in his element. It was a friendly crowd of mostly Liberty University students who cheered the Texas senator with chants of "USA! USA!" when he announced his intention to run.
It's those young, social conservatives and evangelicals Cruz is targeting, making his base, and hoping to drive to the polls. He wants to add them to the Tea Party faithful who helped elect him to the US Senate two years ago. And they are, in large part, why he selected a Christian school in Virginia -- as opposed to anywhere in Texas. The school is also named, conveniently, Liberty, and that central idea -- fighting for liberty -- is a central theme in Cruz's burgeoning campaign.
"Today," Cruz said, "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. Our rights, they don't come from man, they come from God almighty."
Cruz's message was well-received, as it was some 11 months ago when he spoke at the same venue.
"The power of the American people when we rise up and stand for liberty knows no bounds," Cruz said, his voice softening for effect.
Alec Sackett, a Liberty University student was surprised by the positive response.
"He definitely caught the audience's attention," he said. "They were engaged. I mean people were cheering. Not too often you get big standing ovations."
Missy Bryant, another Liberty student said she was excited to see a presidential candidate on her campus, espousing opinions close to her own.
"It was great that there is a presidential candidate running that has a lot of beliefs that I know a lot of us here have," she said after the thirty minute speech.
Despite the warm reception, and Cruz's inability to escape what amounted to a mob of selfie-seekers, there were some in the audience who already have their minds made up on another politician with Texas roots. They were wearing red shirts emblazoned with the words, "I Stand For Rand," as in Kentucky Senator and likely candidate Rand Paul. Lee Showalter was among them.
"I'm a little bit unsure of Ted Cruz because he can be controversial," he suggested. "I'm not sure I want someone who is such a fanatical Christian to actually win the presidency."
Still, this was a positive first step for Cruz, who's also the first from a major political party to declare his candidacy -- skipping the now customary exploratory committee before jumping into the race.
"We're not exploring," said Rick Tyler, a campaign spokesperson. "We know we've got the support. We know we've got the resources. We know we've got the message. We're on, we're forward, we're leading."
The campaign team estimates it needs between $40 and $50 million dollars to be competitive. The first big fundraiser is in Houston on March 31.
He is the first in the race, a fact not lost on the thousands in attendance at the campus' basketball arena. But he likely faces a very deep field, including perceived frontrunners Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. He could also face a fight for the social conservative vote in the early going from two men who've won the Iowa caucuses--Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. Money could be an issue, though his staff is confident they'll have the cash they need to compete. And his opponents will point to his perceived intractability on issues like immigration and health care, as well the fact that he was born in Canada even though multiple legal scholars have already indicated Cruz is eligible to run.
Still, Cruz is optimistic his message is the right one to galvanize a fractured party and nation.
"Imagine millions of young people coming together and standing together saying we will stand for liberty," he told the cheering crowd. "Think just how different the world would be."
Cruz says the media overplays the immigration issue as it relates to his ability to attract Hispanics, saying he garnered 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in Texas when he ran for Senate in 2012. He says, publicly, his message will resonate with Hispanics in states other than California, which he wouldn't expect a Republican to win regardless.
As for those who find him too polarizing, Cruz isn't concerned.
"You know this shouldn't be about personalities," he suggested. "One of the things that is wrong with Washington is so much of it is about this politician bickering with another. Most people could not care less."