First out of the gate was Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), 44, Tea Party-beloved and self-described uncompromising conservative. He boldly proclaimed his candidacy and his intention of bridging the social conservative and tea party constituencies at Virginia’s Liberty University. Pacing the stage like a Baptist preacher without notes or teleprompter, the Tea Party son of Texas promised to “reignite the promise of America” and called for an army of “courageous conservatives” to rally behind his candidacy and propel an unabashed conservative to office.
Trumpeting rhetorical illustrations of what his election would bring, Sen. Cruz denied his role in the 2014 government shutdown over the Affordable Care Act and instead used the stage at the world’s largest Christian university to ask “people of faith” (social conservatives) and “lovers of liberty” (tea partiers) to support his candidacy. Cruz currently stands third behind Jeb Bush and Scott Walker with 10.5 percent of polled GOP primary voters.
Surrounded by hundreds of his loyal supporters whose chants of “President Paul” echoed through the halls of a Louisville hotel ballroom, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) firmly asserted his candidacy and unabashedly declared, “We have come to take our country back!” Paul, 52, ophthalmologist turned Tea Party senator from Kentucky, has attempted to broaden the GOP’s appeal and balance its policies with traditionally Democratic constituencies, such as young voters and African Americans, in areas of government surveillance and criminal justice reform, respectively.
However, Sen. Paul’s announcement marks his biggest balancing act yet—between the GOP’s preference for foreign policy interventionism and the libertarian skeptics who traditionally reject America’s role abroad and instead champion issues of personal liberty.
Hoping to build from the base of libertarian supporters of his father Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 presidential runs, Sen. Paul hopes to build a coalition of tea partiers and constitutional conservatives around the message of “liberty for all Americans.” Currently in fourth place among polled candidates, Paul commands 9.8 percent of GOP primary voters.
In a carefully crafted announcement message, Former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton subtly framed her announcement alongside the aspirations of the single mom, small business owner and the young college graduate by firmly declaring her candidacy as a champion of “everyday Americans.” The content of her announcement overwhelmingly skewed to personal stories of the determination of Americans.
Clinton, 67, struck a tepidly populist note, asserting that the “desk is still stacked in favor of those at the top” and the rhetorical beginnings of her platform as helping every day Americans “get ahead and stay ahead.”
Clinton, commanding 59.8 percent of the Democratic primary base stands in an unprecedented position of support with ever-increasing endorsements, likely robust fundraising efforts and grassroots energy exemplified in the “Ready For Hillary” PAC. After making her announcement, Clinton drove by car to Iowa, where she intends to push her message that “when families are strong, America is strong” by emphasizing the stories of everyday people.
Despite being largely overshadowed by Clinton’s announcement the day before, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)–widely regarded as the GOP’s best communicator—framed a “New American Century” as his candidacy’s narrative, juxtaposed against the implicitly targeted leader of the past, Hillary Clinton. Embodying youthful optimism and an enviably inspiring story as a son of Cuban immigrants, Sen. Rubio, 43, used the backdrop of Miami’s Freedom Tower—frequently characterized as Ellis Island for Cuban exiles—as the beginning of the election that will serve as a “generational choice” about what kind of country America will be.
The first-term senator offered himself as a leader of 21st century ideas against leaders—Clinton and Jeb Bush—who promise to “take us back to yesterday.” While employing soaring rhetoric and a powerful narrative reminiscent of the current occupant of the White House, Sen. Rubio must overcome a strained relationship with GOP base as a result of his sponsorship of the failed 2013 immigration overhaul in addition to a lack of a reliable constituency or dependable donor base. Rubio currently stands in seventh place among polled candidates with support from 7.6 percent of GOP primary voters.