Policy: Entitlements

Ted Cruz would be a formidable 2016 presidential contender

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"I'm Ted Cruz and I approved this message ... because I can clean up this mess."

No, you haven't heard any thing like that yet (unless you live in Texas where Ted Cruz, R-Texas, romped to a first-time win in the U.S. Senate race last fall.)

But don't be surprised to hear it in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and beyond, come mid-2015.

If you keep cable news on in the background, you probably would have seen Cruz last week urging you to visit AbolishIRSNow.com, a project of the Senate Conservatives Fund, founded by then-senator and now Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint.

"It's been so successful, we are ramping it up," Matt Hoskins, executive director of the fund, told me. Cruz is already a powerful, trusted conservative brand, Hoskins added, though he has been in the Senate only six months.

When the IRS scandals broke this spring, Cruz was quick to see, understand and act upon the outrage that erupted immediately. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., spent his energy on drones, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on immigration reform, and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., on various issues including a double-layered border fence, but Cruz, fresh from dueling Sen. Dianne Feinstein on gun control, took out after the symbol of Washington, D.C.: the tax gatherer.

The 42-year-old lawyer hit the Senate beaches hard in January, immediately provoking hostility from the old guard and anger on the Left. Cruz arrived in the chamber an accomplished, indeed brilliant lawyer — a former Supreme Court law clerk (to William Rehnquist) and solicitor general of Texas.

He has captained many high-profile cases, written powerful briefs, sparred with the former chief justice in high chambers and argued nine cases before the Supreme Court.

"Love of fame is the ruling passion of the noblest minds," penned founder Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 72 many years ago, and Cruz loves the spotlight. His critics say Cruz is ambitious but that has not yet proved a grievous fault. The opposite, in fact. (Like Hamilton, Cruz was born outside the U.S., and, as a "natural born citizen," he is eligible for the presidency.)

A fighting general is what Lincoln needed after the Gettysburg battle of 150 years ago last week, so he grabbed one from the Western theater — U.S. Grant — and put him in charge of winning in the East.

The GOP is hungry for a fighter, thus applause for Rand Paul's filibuster, and the (overstated) pique with Rubio for Gang of Eight compromises with Senate Democrats.

As the collapse of the president's paper mache policies accelerates, both foreign and domestic, so does the rise of any star linked to principled, effective and especially vocal opposition.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has promised a compact presidential debate schedule in 2015, and, if it includes all or some of the Senate's rising stars of Cruz, Paul, Rubio and Thune, as well as the GOP's biggest governor names — Chris Christie, R-N.J., Bobby Jindal, R-La., John Kasich, R-Ohio, and Scott Walker, R-Wis. — then Cruz's skill as an advocate will serve him very well in field crowded with talent and experience.

If Texas Gov. Rick Perry returns to the presidential trail, it will complicate things for Cruz, but not much — Perry supported Cruz's opponent in last year's Texas Senate primary. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum will likely be back in Iowa, but Cruz and many of the others have deep ties with the faith communities that powered former Sen. Rick Santorum in 2012. Watch that space. A fighting general from the West ... ?

HUGH HEWITT, Washington Examiner columnist, is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.

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