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Ted Cruz - Caricature

Image via Donkey Hotey @ Flickr.

In a speech at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Va. — a right-wing school established by the Rev. Jerry Falwell — Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) announced his candidacy for the presidency in 2016. The announcement makes Cruz the first Republican, and the first major candidate to throw his had into the ring for 2016.

A campaign launch is sometimes carefully staged to send a subtle message to a core constituency about where a candidate really stands. Sometimes the message is not so subtle, as when Ronald Reagan launched his campaign with a speech touting “states’ rights” in Neshoba County, Mississippiwhere civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman were murdered in 1964.

It’s no coincidence that Cruz chose Liberty University as the site for his campaign. (Cruz was guaranteed a full house. Students had to attend or be fined.) The university is the home of the “Clinton Body Count” — the idea, popular on the right during the late 1990s, that Bill and Hillary Clinton were responsible for dozens of murders. It’s also chock-a-block with anti-gay activists. Cruz is already popular among the tea-party set, but that's not enough to keep him viable. With Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) likely to take most of the Libertarian vote, Cruz needs to pull as many social conservative votes as he can to have a hope of viability.

Cruz’s campaign launch was an overt attempt to reach out to the farthest right of the fringe, and the craziest true believers among the GOP base. Cruz shouldn’t have much trouble convincing them that he’s one of them, given some of the crazy things he believes.

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