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Cruz woos US Christians after announcing White House bid

Casting himself as the leader of a grassroots army, Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz made an explicit appeal to Christian conservatives as he became the first major figure to jump into the 2016 US presidential race.

Cruz's unyielding tactics in Washington have made him a hero to many on the Tea Party right, but he has yet to break into the front ranks of what is shaping up to be a crowded field for the Republican nomination.

Speaking at Liberty University, a Christian school founded by televangelist Jerry Falwell, Cruz called for the support of religious conservatives who play a major role in states with early nominating contests. He discussed his Baptist faith in personal terms and urged religious conservatives who have sat out recent elections to get off the sidelines.

"God's blessing has been on America from the very beginning of this nation, and I believe God isn't done with America yet," he said, urging the crowd to imagine millions of people of faith going to the polls and "voting our values."

Cruz's prominent role in the 2013 government shutdown made him one of the better-known politicians in America even as he made enemies in both parties on Capitol Hill. In a 21-hour talkathon on the Senate floor, he chided the "cheap suits" and "bad haircuts" of some politicians and read the children's book "Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr. Seuss.

But the Harvard-educated son of a Cuban immigrant starts the race for the November 2016 election as a second-tier candidate.

Cruz came in third in an informal poll of activists last month at the Conservative Political Action Conference, and Reuters/Ipsos tracking polls show him statistically tied with five other potential candidates, though well behind former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

As the first to jump into the race, Cruz will get extra attention from the media and voters for several weeks as he tries to position himself as the conservative alternative to more centrist candidates like Bush and Walker.

Supporters aim to raise up to $50 million in the primary season, though his prominent role in the 2013 government shutdown could cost him support on Wall Street and in the business world.

"The Republican Party and the American people have to be able to find a more qualified candidate for president than Ted Cruz," said Republican Representative Peter King of New York, who also called Cruz a "carnival barker".

Cruz is likely to do well with small donors and wealthy Texans, said Atlanta fund manager David Panton, who has known Cruz since college.

"A lot of people wait to write the check until Ted has formally announced," he said.

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Tags:  Ted Cruz  US  president  Senate  





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