Sean Theriault

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for the 2016 presidential race over Twitter on Sunday and in a speech at Liberty University in Virginia on Monday.

Cruz is the first major candidate to announce his candidacy. Since he represents the second most-populated state in the country, Texas, Cruz is a major candidate in the current Republican race, according to government professor Sean Theriault.

“Dr. [Ben] Carson has never won an election in his life,” Theriault said, referencing another potential candidate for the Republican primary. “That doesn’t mean that he has no chance, just that he’s never demonstrated that he knows how to put a winning campaign together. Senator Cruz knows how to do that.”

Such an early announcement gives Cruz a short-term advantage, Theriault said. University Democrats president Michelle Willoughby disagreed.

“Announcing early officially isn’t an advantage,” Willoughby said. “What matters more is starting early in the early states like New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina, and, in that game, Cruz is significantly later than several other [Republican] contenders who have been spending a lot of time in the early states.”

Cruz, a Texas junior senator, has been under some scrutiny regarding his eligibility to run for and/or serve as president. Cruz was born in Canada, but his mother, who is from Delaware, is a natural-born citizen. 

Cruz formally renounced his Canadian citizenship last May and claims he is natural-born through his mother.

Theriault said people questioning Cruz’s citizenship have no grounds for their worries.

“These questions about citizenship are ridiculous — not quite as ridiculous as the questions about Obama’s citizenship, but close,” Theriault said. “His mother is a naturalized citizen.”

Bridget Guien, College Republicans communications director, agreed with Theriault.

“Senator Cruz’s birthplace should not affect his eligibility to run for president,” Guien said. “He is a natural-born citizen and holds the right to run for the presidency.”

Cruz is serving his first term in the U.S. Senate. He defeated then-Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in the 2012 election by a 14-point margin. 

Theriault said Cruz’s limited time in federal government might not affect his abilities to serve, citing President Barack Obama’s victory after one term in the Senate.

“Ask Barack Obama the same question,” Theriault said. “He was first elected to the Senate in 2004 and, four years later, became president. Cruz would follow the same path.”

Willoughby said Cruz’s political résumé concerns her, calling him the “most extreme candidate considering running.”

“He isn’t polling well, he has alienated many in the GOP leadership and the general Republican voters with his grandstanding, and he is likely to have issues even with the groups that supported him in his campaign for Senator with a more crowded field,” Willoughby said. “These factors mean Cruz winning the primary is pretty unlikely.”

Theriault has more faith in Cruz’s abilities to persevere in the presidential race.

“For the Republicans in 2016, it all comes down to how the other candidates collapse,” Theriault said. “If the hard-right candidates fall like flies, and Cruz wins Iowa, he could have some longevity, especially if Bush has some competition from the ‘establishment’ wing of his party.”

The College Republicans do not officially endorse anybody in the primaries because the group is an auxiliary of the Republican Party.

UT government professor Sean Theriault argues in his new book, “The Gingrich Senators: The Roots of Partisan Warfare in Congress,“ that the delay in senate processes is due to a small group of senators, which has created a more hyper-partisan atmosphere in the United States Senate. 

This has resulted in a slower process of passing bills, according to Theriault. He said he arrived at this argument through years of researching, after writing two previous books on the United States Congress. Theriault said he wanted to figure out how the United States House of Representatives practices blocking or promoting legislation flowed into the Senate after 1978. 

Through his research, he identified Republicans who moved from the House to the Senate as the ones who brought hyper-partisian attitudes. The move began in 1978 when Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, was first elected to Congress.

The current senators today who he calls “Gingerich Senators” include Rick Santorum, Jim Inhofe and Tom Corbett.

Theriault said he came to his conclusion by looking at roll call votes and who was sponsoring amendments, following Gingrich’s lead. His research went so far as to figure which senators participated in a secret Santa tradition and frequently appeared on Sunday morning talk show aimed at specific demographics.

“In both parties, 70 percent of members participated, but within this group of senators the number is 20 percent,” Theriault said.

UT government professor Brian Jones said he agreed with the book, and believes representatives serving with Gingrich in the House were later elected to the Senate, and brought with them a dimissive attitude from the House.

“This is a fine book bringing a very different perspective to legislative analysis,” Jones said. “It will be read and discussed by political scientists and any and all interested in American legislative politics.”

Theriault said in order for the United States to break away from the effect of the Gingrich Senators, the public needs to elect representatives who are problem solvers, rather than those who only have ideals that are similar to their own.

But not everyone believes the Senate has become more hyper-partisan. UT College Republicans President Danny Zeng said it comes down to perception. 

“The media defines what is more conservative and what is more liberal,” Zeng said. 

Theriault said he is currently working on a textbook about the role of the Tea Party in the United States.