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  1. Florida Politics

Why Ted Cruz is a problem for Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio

Sen. Ted Cruz at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., on Monday. (Travis Dove/The New York Times)
Sen. Ted Cruz at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., on Monday. (Travis Dove/The New York Times)
Published Mar. 24, 2015

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's entry into the Republican primary for president could bring headaches for two likely rivals from Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush.

For Bush, Cruz will draw even more attention to Common Core, the education standards that have become a flash point for conservative activists.

"Instead of a federal government that seeks to dictate school curriculum through Common Core, imagine repealing every word of Common Core," Cruz said in his announcement speech Monday at Liberty University in Virginia.

Look for Cruz to also hammer Bush as the epitome of an establishment candidate, if not to amplify the "enough Bushes" feeling.

For Rubio, Cruz could attack him over his role in writing the Senate's comprehensive immigration bill — legislation Cruz voted against and denounces as amnesty.

Cruz, a relative fresh face in national politics, could also drain Rubio's support among activists, some of whom are giving the Floridian another look after he distanced himself from his own immigration bill. Rubio now says a piecemeal approach is best.

Cruz, like Rubio, is the son of a Cuban immigrant and he focused a good part of his speech Monday on the same American Dream theme that Rubio has used. His campaign released an ad in Spanish that appeals to the growing Hispanic voter base.

He also talked about the burden of student loans, saying he only recently paid them off, something Rubio has worked into his speeches.

Pundits question Cruz's appeal and most polls, though still early, barely show him registering. But he has the ability to excite the most ardent conservatives.

"I'm getting emails from people all across the states asking me to tell Cruz he has their support," said Laura Zorc, a leading Common Core critic in Florida. "He should not be taken lightly because he has the support of the grass roots."

His role in the race could force other candidates to take harder-line positions on immigration and other issues. But a messy primary could help Bush, who has promised to run a campaign that doesn't pander.

"I'm not going to fake anger to placate people's angst," Bush said during a speech last week in Atlanta.

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