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NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS)Texas Senator Ted Cruz became the first candidate to declare he’s running for President in 2016. He reached out to a coalition of Tea Party and religious conservatives at Liberty University, the nation’s largest Christian university.

The first term Senator told the crowd, “I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives rising up to reignite the promise of America.”

Cruz received loud applause when he said he stands unapologetically with Israel, wants to repeal President Obama’s healthcare law, and champions school choice for every child.

The Senator’s supporters in North Texas eagerly greeted the announcement.

Katrina Pierson, a Garland Tea Party leader said, “Senator Cruz goes out there, he gives a speech saying what you see is what you get, this is who I am, and I think that’s pretty amazing.”

While Cruz enjoys wide support in Texas, that’s not the case nationally among Republicans.

Heath Cheek, a Dallas Republican, says he prefers a candidate who will appeal to both conservative and moderate Republicans. “That’s why I think someone who appeals to both sides like Walker or Rubio is going to be the person who will win at the end of the day.”

Democrats, like Shawn Stevens of Plano, blasted Cruz’s candidacy, blaming him for shutting down the government in 2013. “A decision he has to make is whether he wants to grand-stand or govern because frankly, up to this point, all he’s done is grand-stand. He hasn’t even worked with colleagues on his side of the aisle to actually govern.”

♦♦♦ Poll: Would Cruz Be A Good President? ♦♦♦

Cruz jumps into what is expected to be a large Republican pool of candidates, including some with Texas ties: Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul who grew up in Texas and is the son of former Texas Congressman and Presidential candidate Ron Paul, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who also grew up in Texas and has ties to two former Presidents.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Arkansas Governor and Fox News Contributor Mike Huckabee, and Surgeon and conservative activist Dr. Ben Carson are also considering a run.

Southern Methodist University (SMU) political science professor Cal Jillson says Cruz had to act now so he can get ahead of what will likely become a crowded field of Republicans running for the White House. “The reason he’s declaring unequivocally is to bring the spotlight and hopefully jump start his fundraising because he knows he’s behind.”

Jillson says Cruz is looking to the first in the nation Iowa caucus in January. “He’s recognizing that religious conservatives are more important for him in Iowa, but he needs a broad national base of his Tea Party constituency.”

Tea Party, college Republicans, and local Republicans parties aren’t endorsing any particular candidates yet, but will do so, when one of the candidates wins the nomination in June, 2016.

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