The newest Tea Party star firing up the Republican base was born in Canada. But he is not exactly bragging about it.
Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz, who beat the establishment-backed candidate in the state's primary last month, is no shrinking violet. In a bid to keep his Tea Party fans satisfied, organizers have given him a Tuesday evening speaking slot at the convention.
On Meet the Press this month, he gave a sample of the message he intends to deliver: "The reason the Tea Party arose – the reason we saw a tidal wave in 2010, and I think we're seeing a tidal wave in 2012 – is that the American people are fed up with politicians in both parties in Washington who keep spending money we don't have."
The man never seems at a loss for words. He created an uncomfortable moment for Mitt Romney's campaign this month by alluding to the GOP nominee's likeability gap: "If the [election] focuses on the economy, on President Obama's abysmal economic record, Republicans win. If it's a battle of personalities, Republicans will lose."
But ask him about his Canadian roots – he was born in Calgary – and the same glaze passes over his face as the one a former ambassador's wife said she witnessed whenever she mentioned the Great White North south of the border.
Does Mr. Cruz, 41, maintain dual citizenship?
"Houston has been my home and where I grew up," is all he offers, walking purposefully in his cowboy boots toward the Tampa Convention Center.
So, no identification with Canada?
"Texas is my home."
Mr. Cruz left Calgary when he was four. So, it is perhaps understandable that his only enduring memory of his birthplace is that " it was cold." For a candidate whose life story has become an integral part of his pitch to voters, the Canadian angle is not quite as sexy as his father's flight from Cuba with $100 sewn into his underwear. Dad reportedly fought alongside Fidel Castro against the Batista regime, but soured on " el lider maximo " once he started nationalizing everything.
The elder Mr. Cruz put himself through the University of Texas washing dishes, earning a math degree. He and his American-born wife started a seismic data processing company, a business that led them to the Canadian oil patch in the late 1960s.
Like Florida senator Marco Rubio, another son of a Cuban exile, Mr. Cruz tells his father's story of fleeing to freedom in the United States in almost all of his speeches. His Tea Party supporters eat it up. The rest of the convention delegates are sure to love it, too, especially since Mr. Cruz is part of a new generation of Hispanic leaders the party hopes will help it woo Latino voters.
But Mr. Cruz enters the electoral ring with more than a compelling family narrative. He has a gold-plated résumé, graduating from Princeton University before earning a law degree at Harvard. As Texas solicitor-general, he led the state's defence in a 2005 Supreme Court case challenging the inscription of the Ten Commandments on a monument outside the State Capitol. He won that case, making him a hero in Texas.
Having cruised through his primary, Mr. Cruz is virtually assured of winning a seat in the Senate this fall. Texas is reliably red, and not even a Todd Akin-like stumble would likely derail a Cruz victory.
When he wins, Mr. Cruz will replace Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is retiring. She is more moderate than Mr. Cruz. He will join a growing and voluble cohort of Tea Partiers in the Senate, including Kentucky's Rand Paul, Utah's Mike Lee and South Carolina's Jim DeMint. They are not big on compromise.
Does Mr. Cruz have anything – beyond its climate – to say about Canada?
"There is no doubt Canada is a tremendously important trading ally, trading partner," he says. "And Canadian leaders have demonstrated a willingness to tackle fiscal issues that is admirable."
And with that, an aide runs interference, rushing Mr. Cruz off to continue the Tea Party revolution.