Granted a coveted speaking spot at this month's Republican National Convention, Ted Cruz continues a post-runoff victory lap that has raised his national profile and cemented his status as an A-list Republican.
Cruz was among five convention "headliner" speakers unveiled Wednesday, capping a productive week after his bruising but decisive election victory to become the GOP nominee for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Cruz was a featured guest on "Fox News Sunday," where he was introduced by host Chris Wallace as "the big story in Republican politics," overshadowing presidential candidate Mitt Romney's overseas trip and search for a vice president.
Monday brought word of Cruz's new role as a Romney campaign surrogate when a Texas-themed ad was unveiled with supporting words from Cruz.
Cruz fully embraced the surrogate role Tuesday, joining senior Romney adviser Ed Gillespie on a conference call with reporters to unveil Romney's latest campaign theme -- an attack on President Barack Obama's welfare policies.
"I view this from a very personal perspective," Cruz said, reminding reporters that his father immigrated from Cuba with $100 sewn into his underwear. "Thank God some well-meaning government bureaucrat didn't come put his arm around him and say, 'Let me make you dependent on government; let me give you a government check.' "
In addition to Cruz, new convention speakers announced Wednesday included Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker -- who survived his own bitter election in a June recall vote that galvanized Republican supporters nationwide -- and Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno.
Speaking times during the Aug. 27-30 convention have yet to be scheduled because speakers are still being added, a party spokeswoman said.
Former state Rep. Paul Sadler, Cruz's Democratic opponent in November's U.S. Senate election, also prevailed in the July 31 runoff elections.
Sadler has begun shifting focus toward the general election -- raising money, opening a South Austin campaign headquarters and pushing for a series of fall debates with Cruz, said Doug Dodson, Sadler's campaign manager.
Meanwhile, Dodson said Cruz "has gone off and joined the Romney campaign, gone off to be the Republican flavor of the month."
Whether Cruz is a flash in the pan or remains a hot ticket will depend on what he does with the opportunity handed to him, said Mark Jones, political science chairman at Rice University.
"Cruz is one of hottest commodities in Republican politics today," Jones said. "He is in the position to become a national player among movement conservatives. Added to that is the reality that he's Hispanic within a party that is dominated by Anglos."
The Republican Party has been keen to showcase diverse figures, and to date, Cruz has risen to the challenge as an articulate and passionate proponent of conservative values, Jones said. "He is almost certainly going to excel" in the national spotlight, Jones said.
Cruz's selection as a convention speaker brought comparisons to Democrat Julian Castro, the San Antonio mayor who will deliver the opening-night keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, to be held in Charlotte, N.C., a week after the Republicans gather.
Both are young, accomplished and forceful speakers whose Hispanic heritage could appeal to a key bloc of voters.
"Clearly, with Julian Castro speaking on the Democratic side, the Republicans need to project an image of diversity as well," Jones said.
Cruz also offers multiple advantages to the Romney campaign, Jones said.
"A weak flank for Mitt Romney is the tea party, or movement conservatives more generally," he said. "Ted Cruz has just come off an election highlighted as one of the great tea party successes of this election cycle. He brings a great deal of credibility to Romney's campaign."
Cruz also can play campaign roles in Florida, Colorado and Nevada -- battleground states where Latino voters could play a crucial role in November, Jones said.
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