LYNCHBURG, Va. — The night before Sen. Ted Cruz is expected to deliver a speech launching his 2016 presidential bid, the Texas Republican's political operation sent a text message to supporters, telling them to pay attention.
"Ted Cruz will make an exciting announcement soon," the message read. "Stay tuned to @tedcruz on Twitter around midnight to be the first to know!"
Ahead of that bit of news, much of the attention about Cruz's planned Monday morning appearance here at a convocation event on the campus of Liberty University focused on two basic choices by the candidate and his advisers: time and place.
President Barack Obama signed the health care overhaul known as the Affordable Care Act into law five years ago Monday, so the date of the announcement is no accident. Cruz has been perhaps the loudest lawmaker calling for the repeal of Obamacare, consistently railing against it in his stump speeches and other conversations.
"You know, five years ago when Obamacare was being debated, reasonable minds perhaps could've differed over whether this thing might work," Cruz said at a Heritage Action for America summit in January. "Today, seeing the devastation, seeing the train wreck, seeing the millions of Americans who've lost their jobs, who've been forced into part-time work, who've lost their health care, who lost their doctors, today the only reasonable, prudent outcome is to acknowledge this thing isn't working. And we need to repeal it and start over."
The man Cruz is seeking to replace in the Oval Office issued a statement Sunday lauding the law ahead of its anniversary, touting success in expanding coverage and providing care to those with pre-existing conditions.
"After five years of the Affordable Care Act, more than 16 million uninsured Americans have gained the security of health insurance — an achievement that has cut the ranks of the uninsured by nearly one third. These aren't just numbers. Because of this law, there are parents who can finally afford to take their kids to the doctor. There are families who no longer risk losing their home or savings just because someone gets sick," the president said. "There are young people free to pursue their dreams and start their own business without worrying about losing access to health care. There are Americans who, without this law, would not be alive today."
Cruz gained particular notoriety (or perhaps infamy) in his ill-fated charge to block funding for Obamacare as part of the appropriations process in 2013, in a standoff that led to a partial government shutdown.
The choice of venue for Monday's formal rollout — far from the state he represents in the Senate and at a place steeped in an Evangelical Christian tradition — sent an unmistakable signal about the kind of supporters (and primary voters and caucus-goers) Cruz and his advisers might focus on in what looks to be a crowded GOP primary field.
House conservatives told CQ Roll Call Sunday Cruz's entry into the field would focus on issues they find particularly important.
Cruz has long been active on issues of particular significance to the social conservative movement. Just last week , he joined with freshman GOP Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma to introduce resolutions designed to block the District of Columbia from prohibiting employer discrimination based on reproductive health decisions and blocking religiously affiliated academic institutions from restricting services afforded to gay groups.
Conservatives view both as efforts to protect religious freedom, and some influential Catholics have joined the cause . Cruz also champions legislation designed to block any effort by the federal government to impose a federal marriage definition upon the states.
Jerry Falwell Jr., the current chancellor and president of Liberty University, told a student-run newspaper he first heard of the Cruz request to speak earlier in the week. Falwell said the speaker originally expected at Monday's convocation would make an appearance at a later date.
That guest? Virginia's Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime friend and supporter of the Clinton family.
"His folks decided that he had some important things that he wanted to say to Liberty students," Falwell said, according to The Liberty Champion . "He wanted to come back when there wasn't so much else going on at Liberty."
Apparently, until McAuliffe decided to speak another day, there was even a chance he could have shared the stage with Cruz.
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