Republican Ted Cruz has made individual liberty the key theme of his presidential campaign announcement.
Speaking at Liberty University in Virginia, Mr Cruz is one of several Republican hopefuls to emerge from the Tea Party movement.
He described his mission as “reigniting the promise of America” because “for so many Americans the promise of America seems more and more distant”.
He is the first high-profile figure to officially enter the 2016 race.
Mr Cruz urged millions of “courageous conservatives” to rise up and he called on Americans to come together to say: “We demand our liberty.”
The speech followed a middle-of-the-night campaign announcement on Twitter.
Making an appeal to cultural conservatives and religious Republicans, he said: “Our rights don’t come from man but from God Almighty.”
The 44-year-old junior Senator from Texas talked the crowd through his childhood and religious faith before moving on to lay out his political agenda.
He detailed his parents’ journey from Cuba in 1957 and discussed his early childhood in Canada – where he was born – after his father abandoned him and his mother.
His father, now an evangelical preacher, moved to the United States and developed a deep Christian faith before returning to his family and moving them to the US.
Striking an anti-regulation tone, Mr Cruz used the word “imagine” as a motif to list several policies he would pursue if elected.
“Imagine a president that finally, finally, finally secures the borders,” he said, and “imagine a simple flat tax,” before inviting the crowd to “imagine abolishing the IRS” – the US tax collecting authority.
He also railed against President Obama’s healthcare reforms known as “Obamacare”.
Five things to know
- he’s smart
- he’s a dangerous underdog
- he’s a gifted speaker
- he has enemies
- he’s behind his rivals
Read Anthony Zurcher’s analysis in full
Many of the students present at the speech were required to be there, CNN reported.
Mr Cruz may go up against the likes of Jeb Bush, an early Republican frontrunner, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who are yet to formally declare their candidacy.
Since his election to the US Senate in 2012, Mr Cruz has developed a reputation for being an uncompromising conservative willing to challenge Democrats as well as his fellow Republicans and has garnered the adoration of many anti-establishment Republicans.
The Texas senator has proven himself at times to be a thorn in the side of his party’s leaders and senior members.
Mr Cruz spoke on the Senate floor for over 21 hours in a marathon speech that contributed to the 2013 government shutdown and was aimed at encouraging his fellow lawmakers to repeal the president’s healthcare reform, nicknamed Obamacare.
The speech included a reading of Dr Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” to his daughters, who were said to be watching their father on television.
He later joked that the event featured hours of his “favourite sound” – his own voice.
2016 runners and riders
Most have not formally declared but these are some of the names to watch:
- early Republican frontrunner is Jeb Bush
- but New Jersey Governor Chris Christie could battle Bush for the party’s centre ground
- darling of the Tea Party is Texas Senator Ted Cruz
- firebrand liberal Elizabeth Warren is championed by many in the Democratic Party
- libertarian Rand Paul has his supporters – and enemies – among Republicans
- Hillary Clinton will have learnt much from her failed campaign of 2008
Meet the 2016 hopefuls
Before entering politics, Mr Cruz worked as a high-profile lawyer representing the State of Texas before the Supreme Court. He also taught law in Texas.
In the George W Bush administration, he worked for the Federal Trade Commission and as an associate deputy attorney general at the Justice Department.