The son of a Cuban immigrant, Mr. Cruz, 38, has degrees from Princeton University and Harvard Law School. He was a champion college debater, clerked for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, and has argued eight cases before the US Supreme Court. Among his victories in the high court, he defended the constitutionality of Texas’ Ten Commandments monument and congressional redistricting. Last year, he completed 5-1/2 years as Texas solicitor general, the first Hispanic to hold that job and the youngest in the nation.
Now he’s taking the plunge into electoral politics, and a GOP eager for fresh talent is applauding. For a party that dropped to only 31 percent of the Latino vote in the 2008 presidential race, so much the better that he’s Hispanic.
But, as many a failed candidate knows, being the smartest man in the room doesn’t guarantee election. Cruz has never run for office before, and his Cuban heritage may not give him an automatic in with Texas’ largely Mexican and otherwise non-Cuban Hispanics. It also remains to be seen how an Ivy League hotshot will play with Joe Six-Pack.
But Cruz is enthusiastic. He’s raised more than $1 million since February and been endorsed by more than two dozen Texas and national GOP figures. On the stump, Cruz loves to tell his father’s story – how he fought in the Cuban revolution as a teen, then was thrown in prison and tortured. Eventually, the elder Cruz escaped Cuba, wound up in Austin, Texas, with $100 sewn into his underwear, and got into the University of Texas.
The story of American immigration, Cruz says in an interview, is the “basic DNA of this nation.”
“We have for centuries been billed as a people who value freedom and opportunity above all else,” he says. “That also embodies the themes I think, as Republicans, we ought to be articulating.”
Though the GOP has lost ground with Hispanics, Cruz believes it is “a fundamentally conservative community – a community that deeply values faith and family and patriotism.” Many Republican politicians are misguided in how they reach out to Hispanics, by advocating “a partial welfare state,” he says. “The Hispanic community wants social mobility and economic mobility that lets someone ... achieve the American dream.”
Part of a series of articles on reshaping the Republican party.
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