With the polling decline of Ben Carson, Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz has emerged as the presumed conservative choice in the Republican presidential primary. As of this writing, Cruz is polling at nearly 18% nationally, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average.
In Iowa, Cruz reaches 30%, the only state where Donald Trump does not consistently lead. Although he has been a consistent grassroots favorite since he first ran for U.S. Senate in 2012, Cruz will likely receive additional scrutiny in the next year.
The following are 6 facts about Ted Cruz you may not know:
1. He has an elite education
Born legally in Canada to a Cuban father and an American mother, Cruz moved to the U.S. as a child. From there, he graduated from the private Second Baptist High School in Houston before going to Princeton and Harvard Law School. The Ivy League is not known for accommodating conservative viewpoints, but Cruz excelled at some of the nation's most established, blue-blood institutions.
One of Cruz's Harvard professors, liberal Alan Dershowitz, memorably called Cruz "off the charts brilliant."
2. He can sound moderate when speaking to moderate audiences.
Seen as a conservative firebrand because of his sensationalistic, though symbolic filibustering of the Affordable Care Act, Cruz is capable of altering his tune and pitch.
One of his college colleagues conceded that because of the extemporaneous nature of college parliamentary debates, "[Cruz] was just as good at defending liberal positions as conservative ones," indicating he is adept at vacillating for an audience.
A recent Politico story reported that Cruz was secretly recorded at a private New York fundraiser attended by moderate and liberal Republicans. When asked about same-sex marriage, which he opposes, Cruz said rolling back the Supreme Court's marriage decision was not a "top-three priority" for him.
While his campaign responded by saying Cruz's answer was substantively no different from previous statements, his remarks in New York were reportedly phrased in the context of defending the Constitution as a priority, not identifying with a particular cause, such as same-sex marriage.
The incident has led some GOP insiders to say, "There's an Iowa Ted and a New York Ted."
3. Cruz advised George W. Bush's 2000 campaign on immigration
Hired to work on the Bush campaign's legal team, Cruz wrote a memo on immigration. While he is mostly identified with immigration restriction today, Cruz wrote that while amnesty for illegal immigrants was not necessarily the answer:
"I think we need to consider all options when trying to resolve our immigration problem and what to do with the millions of illegal immigrants already living here."
"America is stronger with the many immigrants who come here to make a new life and participate in the American dream," he continued.
Somewhat resembling the looser immigration standards he now opposes, Cruz also wrote, "We need to remember that many of those coming here are coming to feed their families, to have a chance at a better life."
4. He won his Senate seat with 8.5% of the electorate
Running for his first political office in 2012, Cruz finished second in a crowded GOP primary behind Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst. Yet with 34% of the vote, barely more than one-third of all Republican ballots cast, Cruz qualified for the second round of voting, where he defeated Dewhurst. In a Republican-dominated state, the primary was equivalent to winning the general election.
As Shawn Griffiths wrote for IVN earlier this year, Cruz's victory highlighted the inequities of the partisan primary:
"Ted Cruz got 631,812 votes in the primary to effectively win a seat that represents 26.97 million people."
That victory, which received 8.5% overall turnout, produced a polarizing candidate who, within one four-year election cycle, is running for a major party's presidential nomination.
5. He walked out on a group of Middle Eastern Christians over supporting Israel
At the In Defense of Christians summit in 2014, Cruz spoke to a group of visiting Middle Eastern Christians. An evangelical Christian, for whom support of Israel is paramount, Cruz declared, "Christians have no greater ally than the Jewish state."
When Cruz's statement elicited some boos from the crowd, he reiterated, "Those who hate Israel, hate America." Equating political opposition to the state of Israel with explicit anti-Semitism, Cruz said, "If you hate the Jewish people you are not reflecting the teachings of Christ," before walking off the stage.
6. His wife is an investment banker at a firm that received bailout money
Heidi Cruz, whom the senator met while working on the 2000 Bush campaign, has worked at the Goldman Sachs investment banking firm since 2005. She took a leave of absence when her husband launched his presidential campaign.
Goldman Sachs, one of the symbols of the financial meltdown of 2008, directly and indirectly received billions in bailout money from the Federal Reserve. The tea party movement, with which Sen. Cruz associates, ardently opposed the taxpayer-funded bailouts of private industries.
For Cruz to become a genuine aspirant for the GOP nomination and the claimant of the conservative mantle in this primary, he may have to answer questions about his personal connections.