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Ted Cruz set to enter race

He is to announce his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination in Virginia.

WASHINGTON - Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) will announce his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination Monday, starting an uphill quest for a young newcomer to elective politics with a knack for picking high-profile battles but a short record of success so far.

Cruz, 44, will jump into the race just two years after being elected to office for the first time, a sign of the eagerness to take on more established Republicans that has marked his short career in politics and in the Senate.

His entry will be the first of a field that is expected to include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Cruz's fellow Texan, former Gov. Rick Perry.

Cruz is a skillful speaker and one of the biggest audience-pleasers in the Republican field. But the cheers in preliminary appearances in early voting states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina so far have rarely translated into tangible support. His tea party base is warming to Walker, and growing numbers of conservatives are seeking someone who would be more likely to win a general election against likely Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Cruz will skip Texas as a backdrop for his announcement, traveling instead to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. The choice of the private Christian school in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains suggested Cruz's plan to play not only to the right but to the evangelical wing of the Republican Party.

The tea party vaulted Cruz, a political novice who had never held elective office, to the Senate seat in 2012. He had attracted attention as Texas solicitor general, an appointed position, and took on the state's GOP establishment by challenging Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Perry's choice.

After his surprise victory in a primary run-off election, Cruz continued to endear himself to the far right soon after coming to the Senate with a 21-hour floor speech against the Affordable Care Act that helped force a partial federal government shutdown. The gambit did not succeed in forcing repeal or weakening the health-care law.

While tea party leaders still like Cruz, they also are looking elsewhere for 2016. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, regarded as a new voice and Washington outsider, has drawn a passionate following. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won the 2008 Iowa caucus, retains a loyal conservative following.

With his announcement Monday, Cruz will have the media attention, but only for a short time. Paul is expected to announce April 7 and other candidates are lining up, as well.