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Ted Cruz for president? Sure, in 2020

By Ed Morrissey, Special to CNN
August 16, 2013 -- Updated 1154 GMT (1954 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Edward Morrissey: Ted Cruz has bright future with GOP, some say he's mulling presidential run
  • He says that would be great -- in perhaps 2020; same with young comers Rand Paul, Rubio
  • He says there are far more seasoned possible candidates in GOP governor ranks
  • Morrissey: Paul, Cruz, Rubio could well be presidents, but should wait till 2020, 2024

Editor's note: Edward Morrissey is a senior editor and correspondent for the conservative commentary website hotair.com

(CNN) -- From the first moment I spoke with Ted Cruz, it was obvious that the former solicitor general for Texas had a bright future in politics.

My first interview with Cruz, at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in 2010, came less than a month after Congress passed the Affordable Care Act.

Cruz, who was not quite 40 at the time and still contemplating his political future, already had the ACA firmly in his sights.

"We are facing from Washington the greatest threat to our liberty we have ever seen," he said, "I think we have to fight on every front to repeal Obamacare."

Cruz didn't want to shy away from a court fight, but predicted that conservatives would have to win with voters more than judges to succeed.

Edward Morrissey
Edward Morrissey

Less than a year later, Cruz would throw his hat in the ring to succeed Kay Bailey Hutchison in the Senate and continue his fight from Washington rather than Texas.

After only seven months in town, Cruz's political talents are obvious. His drive to push the Republican Party into a budget showdown over Obamacare reflects his passionate opposition to the ACA and a shrewd assessment of the temperature of the grassroots base. He's also a staunch opponent of the Gang of Eight immigration reform bill, a position based first on his principles but clearly consonant with many rank-and-file Republicans.

The immigration bill pitted him against another talented Republican newcomer, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, one of its authors and vocal proponents, although both are allied on the strategy to overturn Obamacare.

Cruz's rapid ascent has rallied conservative activists and has many speculating over his potential impact on the 2016 presidential race. In fact, enough people are speculating on it that Donald Trump and Ann Coulter have been moved to cast doubts on his eligibility to run. (Cruz was born in Canada, but his mother is a native of Delaware and a U.S. citizen, which would qualify Cruz as native-born under the broadly accepted definition of the term.)

Opinion: Ted Cruz can be president, probably

Cruz has recently begun to tour Iowa, usually a good signal of presidential ambition, while Slate reported this week that social conservatives in the state are pushing to get Cruz into the 2016 race.

Sen. Feinstein: 'I'm not a sixth-grader'
Sen. Cruz focused on defunding Obamacare
Rand Paul eyes presidential bid

No one doubts that Cruz has a bright future in the Republican Party, but that doesn't mean the future is now.

Cruz, like Rubio and Rand Paul, have only barely arrived on the national stage and are many years younger than their sell-by date. None of the three has held executive office yet. Both Paul and Cruz have only won one election in their career. All three have made an extraordinary impact as freshmen senators, but they are still mainly untested outside of a single electoral cycle.

Additionally, Republicans have more options: By the time 2015 rolls around and candidates have to commit to a run, a number of GOP governors will be staking out their ground as well.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will almost certainly use his considerable media presence and blunt style to launch the next phase of his career. Scott Walker has to win a re-election bid in Wisconsin in 2014; a win will re-establish his fighting credentials on budgets and reform.

Mike Pence got some attention early in the 2012 cycle as a potential presidential contender, but decided to go home to Indiana to add executive office to his already-impressive conservative credentials. Susana Martinez, who like Cruz was given a featured-speaker slot at the national GOP convention last year, should sail to a 2014 re-election in New Mexico, with approval ratings that have never dropped below 60%.

This wealth of proven executive talent, most from governors who have courted the conservative grassroots, makes the Beltway bids from freshmen senators look even more like long shots.

That's not to say that we may not see a President Ted Cruz in the future. With his talent and political savvy and his potential for staying power, no one should count him out in the long run. Like Paul and Rubio, though, his potential presidential future may be 2020 or 2024.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Edward Morrissey.

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