Republican Senator Ted Cruz has today become the first official presidential candidate in the race for 2016, and will mark his campaign launch in a speech at Liberty University, Virginia, a Baptist institution and said to be the world's largest Christian university.
The Texas senator confirmed the news in a tweet early this morning. In his campaign launch video, which he shared on Twitter, he says "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."
I'm running for President and I hope to earn your support! pic.twitter.com/0UTqaIoytP— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) March 23, 2015
He will be joined by several Republican candidates in the coming weeks and television debates will begin in September.
Cruz, 44, is a tea party favourite and has a large support base among evangelical Christians. He was given a warm reception at last year's Values Voter Summit; the conference, which is hosted by the Family Research Council, is usually seen as an early indicator of conservative support for presidential candidates, and Cruz won the most support (25 per cent) in the poll at the end of the weekend.
A committed Southern Baptist, Cruz has been outspoken about religious freedom, both at home and abroad, and has taken a strong stance against same-sex marriage. He is currently seeking to introduce legislation to protect each state's right to make its own decision on the issue.
"I support traditional marriage and we should reject attempts by the Obama administration to force same-sex marriage on all 50 states," Cruz said in a statement.
The first-term senator has also been a staunch opponent of Obamacare, and famously read the Dr Seuss poem Green Eggs and Ham in the Senate during a 21-hour filibuster in an Obamacare debate in September 2013.
His hard-line opposition to Democrat policies is echoed by his father, pastor Rafael Cruz, director of Purifying Fire Ministries – the ministry of Suzanne Hinn (wife of Benny).
Cuban-born Rafael Cruz has compared Barack Obama's leadership approach to that of Fidel Castro, describing him as a Marxist who "seeks to destroy all concept of God".
At the Values Voter Summit Ted Cruz protrayed a bleak view of the current state of American politics, but said: "I am optimistic because I am convinced that God isn't done with America yet."
The early campaign launch will give Cruz a head-start on campaign funding and publicity. But there are a number of other Republican candidates vying for the conservative Christian vote, including Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee.