The Washington Post

Is Ted Cruz eligible to run for president?

He’s only been in Washington since January, but Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is the subject of rampant speculation that he will be a presidential candidate in 2016, particularly after his recent visit to the early-primary state of South Carolina.

But complicating the calculus is that Cruz, 42, was born in Canada, raising questions about whether he is even eligible to seek the presidency.

Cruz spoke at a state Republican fundraiser Friday and was warmly received by top donors and activists as he railed against the Obama administration’s handling of several issues.

As he explores the possibility of running for president, Cruz faces several potential questions, including whether he would be viable in a field already populated by other Republican lawmakers, including Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

Then there is the question about his birthplace.

The Constitution states the president must be a “natural-born citizen.” Cruz’s mother was a U.S. citizen when he was born (his father was born in Cuba) and current law extends citizenship to anyone born to a U.S. citizen, regardless of where the birth takes place. The question is whether U.S. citizenship is the same thing as being a “natural-born citizen.”

Cruz’s spokesman Catherine Frazier said Monday that the senator “is a U.S. citizen by birth, having been born in Calgary to an American-born mother.”

Cruz would not be the first presidential candidate to face questions of eligibility.

Democrats in 1967 suggested that Republican George Romney would not be eligible to serve as president, because he was born to U.S. citizens in Mexico. But a New York Law Journal piece at the time argued forcefully that he would be eligible, which seemed to put the issue to rest. Ultimately, Romney’s primary campaign imploded based on comments he made about the Vietnam War.

More recently, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was born in the Panama Canal Zone to U.S. citizens, faced questions about his eligibility when he earned the GOP nomination in 2008. The Senate passed a resolution stating that McCain was indeed a natural-born citizen after he secured his party’s nomination.

The issue of eligibility dates back to Chester A. Arthur, who began facing questions of his eligibility after becoming president in 1881. Democrats claimed that Arthur, a Republican, wasn’t born in the northern reaches of Vermont as he maintained but in a far southern section of Canada.

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has even weighed in on the issue, writing in November 2011 that people born to U.S. citizens in foreign countries “most likely” qualify as natural-born citizens.

“The weight of more recent federal cases, as well as the majority of scholarship on the subject, also indicates that the term ‘natural born citizen’ would most likely include, as well as native born citizens, those born abroad to U.S. citizen-parents, at least one of whom had previously resided in the United States, or those born abroad to one U.S. citizen parent who, prior to the birth, had met the requirements of federal law for physical presence in the country,” wrote CRS’s Jack Maskell.

During his remarks in South Carolina on Friday night, Cruz repeatedly referenced his father, Raul Cruz, recounting that he had fought for the Cuban revolution but was later imprisoned, beaten and nearly killed before fleeing to Texas at the age of 18.

“My dad has been my hero my whole life, but what I find most incredible about his story is how commonplace it is,” Cruz told the crowd. “Every one of us could come up here, one after the other, and tell a story just like that. We are all the children of those who risk everything for freedom. I think that’s the most fundamental DNA of what it means to be an American.”

Discuss this topic and other political issues in the politics discussion forums.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.
Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The Republicans debate Saturday night. The New Hampshire primary is on Feb. 9. Get caught up on the race.
Heading into the next debate...
Donald Trump returns to the Republican presidential debate stage Saturday night. Marco Rubio arrives as a sudden star, but fending off ferocious attacks from his rivals. Still glowing from his Iowa victory, Ted Cruz is trying to consolidate conservative support, while Ben Carson is struggling to avoid being typecast as the dead man walking.
Play Video
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote, but Marco Rubio has recently seen a jump in his support, according to polls.
New Hampshire polling averages
A victory in New Hampshire revitalized Hillary Clinton's demoralized campaign in 2008. But this time, she's trailing Bernie Sanders, from neighboring Vermont. She's planning to head Sunday to Flint, Mich., where a cost-saving decision led to poisonous levels of lead in the water of the poor, heavily black, rust-belt city. 
56% 36%
Upcoming debates
Feb. 6: GOP debate

on ABC News, in Manchester, N.H.

Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.