Based on the amount of coverage surrounding the 2016 presidential candidates, you might think you already know a lot about them. They’re willing to discuss their personal attributes on live TV and make numerous speeches all across America about why they’re the best person for the job. In cases like Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, we know a bit more about them because they’ve been in the spotlight for numerous years – they didn’t just show up on the national stage in the past few months.
For other candidates like Ted Cruz, getting the full picture of the candidate is a little tougher to do. Cruz stepped on to the national stage in 2012 after becoming the surprising Republican candidate in the race for Texas senator. If Cruz ends up beating Donald Trump for the Republican nomination for president, it won’t be the first time he has been on the winning side of a come-from-behind victory.
Though knowing a candidate’s political stances are important, it’s also a good idea to get a semblance of the whole person – who they are when the cameras aren’t rolling, and the characteristics that could help or hurt them in their presidency. With that in mind, take a look at some of the things about Ted Cruz that you won’t necessarily find out from a debate or a stump speech.
1. He can debate with the best of them
Most people think the current three-hour televised debates are already too long, but Cruz likely wouldn’t have a problem if they were extended even beyond that time limit. Cruz spent most of his college years in pseudo practice rounds for the debates and speeches he would make later in life, first as the solicitor general for Texas, arguing cases before the Supreme Court. In 1992 while at Princeton, Cruz was speaker of the year, team of the year with fellow debater Dave Panton, the national championship top speaker, and the North American Debating Championship top speaker.
Those honed skills have undoubtedly come in handy during his career as a litigator and as a politician, perhaps most notably during his 2013 speech before the Senate as an argument for defunding the Affordable Care Act. The speech was 21 hours and 19 minutes long, included Dr. Seuss-like commentary for his daughters’ sake, and is the fourth-longest Senate speech (or “filibuster,” depending on your definition) on the books.
He also rarely, if ever, utters “um” during public speaking engagements.
2. He has an excellent memory
If you tell Cruz something once, don’t expect him to forget it. Cruz has apparently told radio talk show host Glenn Beck that he has an audiographic memory, which allows someone to remember things he’s heard with near perfect recall. It could be a conversation or a text read out loud, but in either case it boosts his speaking and debating skills. In fact, it’s this memory that Cruz credits with the reason why he called out Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for lying about a trade deal in July 2015.
Having perfect eidetic (photographic) memory is often disputed, and it’s unlikely that having perfect audiographic memory is foolproof, either. However, that same skill is attributed to Truman Capote and Bing Crosby, among others, and would certainly be a help in remembering facts and details. The Wall Street Journal calls Cruz’s skill a “near-photographic memory,” and reports Cruz used it to memorize the speeches of Ronald Reagan, also traveling the state of Texas to recite the Constitution at various rotary clubs.
3. He has a very deliberate sense of style
Cruz is at home in a pinstripe suit as he is a flannel shirt and jeans – provided there’s a silver belt buckle and boots to go with them. He matches his wardrobe with the occasion at hand, and has been known to eschew photo ops until he can take his glasses off. Cruz has earned criticism for his wardrobe, with many saying it’s ill-fitting and off-putting.
Still, Cruz is confident in his appearance – or at least wants to make it seem like he is. Cruz’s campaign ridiculed opponent Marco Rubio for wearing “men’s high-heeled booties,” a stark contrast from the black ostrich boots Cruz is known for wearing pretty much everywhere. In fact, Cruz calls his trusty pair his “argument boots,” and wears them most days on the Senate floor. “Litigators are kind of superstitious souls, so anytime I went into court to argue a case I wore my argument boots. I had them resoled four or five times,” Cruz said on C-Span during his 2013 filibuster. Cruz noted that he did not wear the boots during his 21-hour speech, but has since resumed wearing boots on the campaign trail.
4. He plays video and mobile games to wind down
Aside from debating and school government, Cruz’s favorite college pastime was a typical one: playing video games. He grew up with Nintendo and Atari, The Daily Beast reports, and doesn’t own a console now for the sole purpose of getting his work done. “I don’t have a console, mostly as a time management tool, because if I had one, I would use it far too much,” he said.
Console or not, Cruz evidently finds a way to get his video game fix. The senator is an avid fan of Candy Crush, and last May reported he was on Level 357 of the mobile game. “The fruits of time between stops in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina…,” he wrote on his Facebook page. With an onslaught of road trips since then, we can only imagine the candy crushing happening on the campaign bus these days.
5. He’s not afraid of being friendless
No one likes being the kid playing by themselves at recess, but it’s safe to say Ted Cruz would probably handle it better than most people – if only because he’s had practice being unpopular. Cruz’s participation in another 2013 filibuster, this time against drones, drew the ire of John McCain, who called Cruz and some of his other colleagues “wacko birds.”
“I don’t have a thin skin,” Cruz told The Wall Street Journal, joking that he needs a food taster in the Capitol. Plus, calling out Mitch McConnell isn’t the only thing Cruz has done in the past to make waves in the Republican establishment. Cruz received a considerable amount of flak for being the only U.S. senator to attend Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, and there have been many times he’s gone against the grain of party politics.
One thing to note, however, is that he hasn’t always been an outsider as he’s led people to believe. In fact, he was involved with the Bush campaign in 2000 and was one of the central lawyers involved in the battle for the Florida recount of votes that led to Bush winning the presidential election.