Ted Cruz
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, addresses the morning plenary session of the Values Voter Summit in Washington Sept. 26, 2014. Cruz plans to launch his campaign for the GOP's 2016 nomination for president in Virginia Monday. Reuters/Gary Cameron

Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, formally announced his presidential bid around midnight, becoming the first major candidate to officially enter the field for the 2016 presidential elections. Cruz made the announcement on Twitter, and is set to announce the move in person at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, on Monday.

With the announcement, Cruz became the first person to officially declare his candidacy, a move that Republican strategists reportedly said was made to secure the first-mover advantage as the Republican primaries are expected to be highly competitive, with at least 11 other GOP candidates possibly in the running.

“It’s the shiny object principle. He wants to be first, get in the conversation, not show any doubt or hesitation,” Dave Carney, a Republican strategist, told the New York Times. “There’s an advantage to being first. He’s now the only one running for president, instead of engaging in this Kabuki dance that the others are.”

The GOP candidate, who has risen rapidly through the party’s ranks since joining the Senate in 2013, became known in his leading role in the Republican call to refuse funding for the Affordable Care Act in 2013, which led to a 16-day government shutdown.

Cruz has also argued strongly against immigration reform, taking a tougher stance on the issue than other potential Republican presidential candidates. Cruz would also be the country’s first major Hispanic presidential nominee.

Cruz has also repeatedly denied the existence of climate change, and was accused of pressuring NASA into downplaying its role as a climate monitoring body in favor of deep space exploration. The Republican leader has also spoken up against net neutrality measures, calling the measure, “Obamacare for the internet.” Cruz has received campaign funds from telecommunications giant Comcast, which is opposed to net neutrality.

Cruz’s reported plan to announce his nomination in person at Liberty University is also likely a calculated move. The evangelical institution, founded by late conservative pastor and political commentator Jerry Falwell, underscores the central role that Cruz’s faith has played in his life and politics. Cruz had previously spoken at Liberty when, in 2014, he called an ongoing controversy over contraception mandates under the Affordable Care Act “a critical case that goes to the heart of religious freedom.”

Although no other candidates have yet formally entered the race, Cruz is expected to face stiff competition from fellow Republicans. In recent weeks, other major figures such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have emerged as potential Republican party nominees for the run.

Cruz reportedly faces stiff opposition from within his party leadership and among voters. Conservative columnist George Will said Cruz was “frankly loathed” within his caucus. In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted in March, 40 percent of Republican primary voters said they could possibly support Cruz while 38 percent said they did not see themselves backing him. Another poll, conducted by CNN/ORC, found that only 4 percent of Republicans rated Cruz as “favorable,” down from 7 percent in November.

Politifact, a website that studies and verifies statements from politicians, currently lists 30 percent of all of Cruz’s evaluated statements as false.