Old Nassau and the Tea Party converge
Cruz was endorsed two weeks ago by the Tea Party Express, a national political action committee, the latest and most visible demonstration of support from the powerful movement. Last October, Cruz was featured on the cover of National Review, calling him “the next great conservative hope.”
At Princeton, Cruz was a Wilson School major and a highly successful collegiate debater, winning the U.S. National Speaker of the Year award as a senior. He and his partner David Panton ’92 also won U.S. National Team of the Year. Outside of debate, Cruz served on the USG and led the conservative Clio Party in the Whig-Cliosophic Society.
The son of a Cuban immigrant, Cruz won a speech contest held by the Free Enterprise Institute, a Houston-based think tank, all four years of high school and gave over 70 speeches on the Constitution before entering Princeton.
Cruz joined the debate team during his freshman year at the University, but it was Panton who won the “Best Freshman Debater” award their first year of college. The loss only prompted Cruz to work harder, and he asked Panton to be his debate partner. The duo continued to improve throughout their four years, named the second-best team as juniors before winning the National Team title in 1992.
Cruz credited college debate with life-long skills that would continue to help him on the campaign trail, where he is known for his oratory skills.
“That had a profound impact, teaching me how to frame an argument and how to articulate conservative principles,” Cruz said.
On USG, Cruz argued against the installation of locks on building doors as safety committee chair and served as chair of the USG’s Department of Food Services committee, which proposed a later meal for students who could not make regular meal hours.
“He was very committed to effective governments,” Panton noted.
Cruz also cut his campaigning chops as a candidate for U-Council. He emerged victorious in a 21-candidate race, a record number of candidates, for 10 delegate positions in 1990.
Cruz said he outwardly talked about his conservative beliefs on campus, discussing his views in the generally more liberal University climate.
“Princeton, like every Ivy League college, leans left, but when I was a student there was a strong group of conservative students,” Cruz said.
Cruz was close with politics professor and conservative Robert George, who eventually served as his thesis advisor on constitutional law.
“Professor George is both a brilliant constitutional scholar and a deeply principled conservative,” Cruz said. “Professor George served as a mentor to many of us. Beyond that, though, if you come into college with a firm foundation, if you know the principles in which you believe, then it can strengthen your foundation to be in such an environment.”
Panton noted Cruz’s consistency in his beliefs and his willingness to discuss them with others.
“He did a very good job in articulating them and encouraging others to come on board,” Panton said. “Not everyone agreed with him, but everyone respected him and his convictions.”
George said that, while Cruz was very dedicated to his conservative beliefs, he also enjoyed dialogue and argument.
“He showed dedication to conservative views, but he was never idealogic or dogmatic,” George said. “He wasn’t just pushing a line; he wanted to engage.”
After Princeton, Cruz went to Harvard Law School and then clerked for Chief Justice William Rehnquist of the U.S. Supreme Court, the first Hispanic to ever hold that post. George, who has worked with Rehnquist in the past, wrote his recommendations for both positions.
“He was the kind of student who stood out very strongly,” George said. “All of Ted’s teachers had the sense of someone going somewhere. He was extremely intelligent and driven to work hard.”
Cruz went on to serve as the Director of the Office of Policy Planning at the Federal Trade Commission, an Associate Deputy Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice, Domestic Policy Advisor for Bush’s campaign in 2000 and eventually Solicitor General of Texas from 2003 to 2008.
His work as Solicitor General included a prominent victory defending a monument to the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol.
In his campaign for Senate, Cruz has garnered endorsements from conservative senators like Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania and Jim DeMint of South Carolina, four of the strongest conservative senators in the country, according to Cruz.
“My campaign has enjoyed support from over 12,000 donors,” Cruz said. “We’re seeing a tremendous excitement in this campaign.”
George has also endorsed Cruz.
“I rarely endorse candidates, and I almost never endorse a candidate in Republican primaries for Senate, but he is such an outstanding candidate,” George said. “I hope for still greater things for him, to be perfectly candid.”
Cruz faces an uphill Republican primary against Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, but there are signs that the gap between the two frontrunners is closing. Between mid-September and mid-January, Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling firm, showed that Dewhurst’s lead shrank from 29 to 18 points.
Panton said he was hopeful about his former debate partner’s chances.
“He’s up against a moderate Republican, and he is a passionate conservative, so I think he has a good chance,” Panton said.