To be the president of the United States, the Constitution dictates that you must be a natural-born citizen of the country. That mandate was not met by the first president, of course, because George Washington couldn't have been born in a country that didn't exist. The first president born in the United States was John Tyler, the 10th president — assuming you don't count the Declaration of Independence as the point of the nation's founding.

The topic has come up regularly since 2008, at which point questions had been raised about the eligibility of both the presidential nominees from the two major parties to hold the office under that requirement. Barack Obama was questioned based on rumors and unfounded speculation that he was born outside the United States. John McCain was questioned based on his having been born in the Canal Zone in Panama. This year, it's Ted Cruz's turn; he was born in Canada.

Only one other candidate in the past 50 years was born outside the United States: Mitt Romney's father, George, who was born in Mexico. Most candidates, as you'd expect, were born in the United States, with the country's largest city, New York, providing the most candidates.

There was an interesting wrinkle in 1964, when Barry Goldwater was the nominee for the Republican Party. He was born in Phoenix — but when Arizona was a U.S. territory and not yet a state.

The people at the corners of the country:

  • Marco Rubio, born in Miami, is the dot at the bottom of Florida.
  • Lloyd Bentsen, from Mission, Tex., is at the southernmost point in that state.
  • Henry "Scoop" Jackson, who ran in 1972 and 1976, is the candidate from Washington state.
  • Nelson Rockefeller, former governor of New York, is the dot at the easternmost part of Maine.

As we noted Wednesday, the law sets a standard for citizenship that doesn't mandate birth in the United States. McCain overcame questions about his eligibility in 2008 — more easily than Obama. Which is a reminder to Cruz: It's not where you were born that really matters.

It's how much of a political fight your opponents want to offer.