— -- Speaking at the largest Christian university in the country on the fifth anniversary of the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz officially announced his campaign for president today, billing himself as the small-government, socially conservative antidote to the Obama administration.
"It is a time for truth, it is a time for liberty, it is a time to reclaim the Constitution of the United States," Cruz said this morning at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.
How Ted Cruz is Practicing to be a Presidential Candidate
Ted Cruz First GOP Candidate Set to Run in 2016 Presidential Race
Cruz became the first major candidate to formally declare his candidacy.
"I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives, rising up to reignite the promise of America," he said.
But despite his appeal to the conservative, grassroots elements of the GOP, Cruz faces an significant challenges in the battle for the Republican Party's presidential nomination.
Here are five obstacles standing between Cruz and the White House:
1. Standing Out As The Conservative Candidate
Ted Cruz's presidential campaign will largely hinge on appealing to the conservative base of the Republican Party, and his ability to distinguish himself from other conservative candidates.
Cruz's first test will come in Iowa -- a state that selected former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum as the winner of its caucus in 2008 and 2012, respectively. Recently, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has attracted the attention of Iowa's social conservatives after his fiery speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit in January. Cruz will need to differentiate himself from these candidates to win over the state's social conservative voters, who represent a large bloc of caucus-goers, and set the path for the rest of the primary races.
2. Jeb Bush's Fundraising Juggernaut
With $100,000-per-ticket fundraisers and a purported goal of raising as much as $500 million for the Republican presidential primary fight, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has emerged as the fundraising heavyweight in the 2016 race, pressuring other candidates to ramp up their own efforts.
Cruz had the backing of traditional donors in his 2012 Senate race, but also raised a significant amount of money from small-dollar donors. Cruz will need that grassroots support once again to sustain his campaign. As the first candidate to declare, he'll be the first to solicit direct contributions to his campaign. Against Jeb Bush's prolific fundraising machine, every direct dollar, from contributions big or small, will help Cruz in what is expected to be the most expensive presidential campaign cycle to date.
3. The Canada Question
Can Cruz -- who was born in Calgary, Canada -- legally run for president? He says yes. His mother, a U.S. citizen, gave birth while his parents happened to be working in Canada at the time.
Cruz was a dual American-Canadian citizen until 2014, when he renounced his Canadian citizenship after its discovery raised questions about his presidential eligibility. While he won't be the first presidential candidate not to be born in the United States (John McCain was born in the Panama Canal zone, and George Romney was born in Mexico to American parents), legal experts have concluded that Cruz's birth isn't an obstacle to becoming president. In a recent Harvard Law Review article, a pair of former solicitors general said Cruz was "fully eligible" to serve as president. Still, Cruz could face some resistance from within the party - potential candidate Donald Trump has already voiced concerns about Cruz's eligibility.
4. He's Not Always The Most Popular Guy In The Room
In his three years in the Senate, Cruz has irked his colleagues over and over -- whether it was leading a 21 hour filibuster just days before a government shutdown or making one senator miss a performance of the “Nutcracker” with her family ahead of Christmas.
In 2013, McCain called Cruz a "wacko bird" for his positions and representation of the Republican Party. But Cruz--who tellingly called himself a "proud wacko bird" in response to McCain's comment--has built his political brand on such confrontations with Democrats and Republicans, and will likely bill himself as an uncompromising candidate willing to stand up to both parties in defense of his principles, and regardless of popularity.
5. He Hasn't Been Around the Block
Unlike many of the current and former governors in the Republican field, Cruz is a relative political newcomer, having only taken office in 2013. While Bush can draw from eight years of governing experience, and Walker can highlight five years of battling public sector unions in Wisconsin, Cruz has only three years in Washington to his name. That level of experience didn't stop then Sen. Barack Obama (who had just as much experience as Cruz does now when he ran for president), but it leaves Cruz open to criticism from his potential challengers.