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Sen. Ted Cruz, the next Barack Obama?

May 01, 2013|By Jon Healey
  • Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas smiles during an event held by the Austin Chamber of Commerce in Austin last month. National Review reported Wednesday that Cruz is mulling a run for the presidency.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas smiles during an event held by the Austin… (Deborah Cannon / Statesman.com )

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a "tea party" favorite, may be new to elected office, but that might not stop him from running for president before his first term in the Senate is over.

And the only people who could legitimately question whether he's sufficiently seasoned would be those who didn't vote for Barack Obama in 2008.

National Review's Robert Costa reported Wednesday that Cruz was "considering" a presidential run in 2016, according to unnamed "friends and confidants." A common wisecrack about senators is that they all want to run for president, so in that sense Cruz's alleged ambitions are practically part of his job description. Still, it does seem just a little hasty for Cruz to be contemplating a run for the nation's highest office less than five months into his first term in any office.

That's where Obama's example comes in. He joined the Senate in 2005 and started running for president not long thereafter. Granted, it wasn't Obama's first elected office; he'd been a state senator in Illinois for eight years before heading to Washington. But Cruz had worked in President George W. Bush's administration for about three years, so he wasn't exactly a government novice.

Obama helps Cruz in another important respect. Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother but a Cuban father, which would make him an inviting target for the sort of pseudo-experts in constitutional law who challenged Obama's legitimacy. Remember, the fact that Obama's father wasn't a U.S. citizen supposedly made the president something other than a "natural-born citizen," as required by the Constitution. But the "birther" movement has been so discredited, it would be hard for Democrats to revive those arguments against Cruz.

This is not to say that Cruz would be insulated from attacks on either of these points. Instead, the attacks would have to come from the right, not the left.

I could see another conservative presidential contender -- but not the one from Kentucky -- arguing that Obama is Exhibit A for why we shouldn't elect a first-term senator as president. I could also imagine a popular GOP governor pointing to Obama and saying, "See? That's why we need a president with executive experience."

Democrats would have a hard time making those arguments without sounding utterly hypocritical. Then again, that's never been much of a hurdle in political campaigns.

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Follow Jon Healey on Twitter @jcahealey

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