Ted Cruz's White House Run Underscores Foreign Policy As Top Concern For 2016 U.S. Elections

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz's recent announcement of his intention to run for president underscored the major role foreign policy will play in the 2016 race to the White House.

Cruz, a conservative Republican, on Monday became the first Republican candidate to formally announce his decision to run. In a nationally televised speech, the Tea Party backed senator upbraided the current administration for its perceived missteps in the foreign policy realm.

While Cruz has virtually no chance of gaining his party's nomination to face likely Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, his emphasis on U.S. foreign policy foreshadows a race in which foreign policy will be a top issue, experts said.

"We have two factors at play -- the rapid rise of IS (Islamic State) and what could be a highly controversial nuclear deal with Iran," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said of the terror group that has overrun vast swaths of Syria and Iraq, as well as the nuclear deal with Iran that Republicans and other critics are likely to blast as too soft on Iran.

"These two things are driving national security higher on the agenda for the average voter," O'Connell said.

"Will foreign policy trump economic concerns? No. But I don't think it will take a back seat like it has in the past," he added.

While Clinton racked up nearly a million miles in the air and visited dozens of countries as secretary of state, Republicans will likely blast her for playing it safe and not having solved any of the world's troubles.

"Republicans are going to turn around and say 'that's not an accomplishment, that's just you earning frequent flyer miles," O'Connell said.

Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua

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Analysis & Political Strategy