A freshman senator’s summer travel plans have sparked increased speculation that he could mount a bid for the US presidency in 2016.
Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, is scheduled to headline a fundraiser for the party in New Hampshire on August 23, according to the Associated Press. The trip will be the 42-year-old’s first visit to the state.
New Hampshire traditionally holds the first primary, guaranteeing a huge level of media attention and making it an important testing ground and momentum generator for candidates. Cruz also intends to travel to Iowa and Florida and has visited South Carolina: three states that held early votes in the 2012 cycle.
He only took office in January but has swiftly risen to prominence and become popular with the Tea Party for his views and energetic, confrontational style, which has upset some within the Republican establishment.
Cruz was born in Canada, but this is unlikely to disqualify him from the requirement that the president be a “natural-born citizen”, since his mother is from Delaware, qualifying him from birth as an American citizen.
A survey of the Republican race in Iowa – home of the first caucus – put Cruz in sixth, with 10% of the vote.
And Cruz could face competition from within Texas in the form of Rick Perry, who failed to win the Republican nomination in 2012. Perry said last Monday that he will not seek re-election as Texas governor next year, leaving him free to mount a fresh bid for the White House without distractions. He was coy when asked about his future on CNN on Sunday, saying his focus is on his final 18 months as governor.
Meanwhile, Perry defended Texas’s controversial abortion bill, which passed through the senate in Austin on Friday but is set to be challenged in the federal courts. He rejected a claim from Wendy Davis, a state senator who has become an icon of the pro-choice movement, that the law will harm health by forcing the closure of the vast majority of the state’s abortion clinics, prompting women to seek illegal alternatives.
“I don’t agree with her premise and I don’t agree with her numbers, I think history will prove that she’s wrong by asserting that,” Perry said on CNN.
“Should the state be able to make these decisions or should we allow this big cumbersome federal government decide for all of us?”
Perry’s unyielding anti-abortion stance amid the national coverage generated by the bill might enhance his reputation among rightwingers, an analyst told the Guardian. “Rick Perry has perfected the art of speaking directly to a conservative audience and using the negative response of his opponents and the news media to his advantage,” said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.
“What sounds like bluster and posturing to one audience sounds like heroic truth-telling to another. Whether he ultimately gets in that race or not remains an open question, but it certainly doesn’t hurt that effort.”
The favourite to replace Perry, Texas attorney general Greg Abbott, was expected to announce his candidacy at an event in San Antonio Sunday afternoon. The 55-year-old Republican reportedly has a $23m campaign warchest. Abbott also has an ally in Cruz, who worked under him as Texas solicitor general.
Like Perry and Cruz, Abbott has regularly adopted strongly conservative positions on issues such as gun control, abortion and limiting the powers of the federal government. Straight after the supreme court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act last month, Abbott announced that Texas’ voter ID law and a re-drawing of the state’s electoral boundaries would go into immediate effect.
Before last year’s presidential election, Abbott threatened international elections observers at Texas polling stations with arrest.
Asked in February what his job entails, he said: “I go into the office in the morning, I sue Barack Obama, and then I go home.”
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
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