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It's still a long shot, but Tea Party favourite Senator Ted Cruz could be the first Canadian-born president of the United States.

Mr. Cruz was born in Calgary, an inconvenient truth that he wants everyone to understand was not his fault and does not make him unfit to be president.

Hence this week's pre-emptive strike to renounce the Canadian citizenship he claims he did not know he had.

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So far, the "birther" brouhaha over whether a white, right-wing, Texas Republican born north of the 49th parallel pales in comparison to the frenzy about whether President Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

After reports emerged suggesting Mr. Cruz, 42, held dual Canadian and U.S. citizenship by virtue of his birth in Alberta to an American mother, Senator Cruz publicly renounced his Canadian citizenship. "Nothing against Canada," he said and released his birth certificate showing the grounds for both citizenships. "I will renounce any Canadian citizenship."

That will not actually do it; there are forms to fill in and payment must be sent before Canada will cull him from the ranks of patriots.

But for a Tea Party favourite who wants to ban abortion, defund Obamacare even if it means shutting down the government, and scrap income tax, removing any lingering doubts about his loyalties to a foreign power may usefully distance him from such policies as universal health care that – at least among Republicans – are viewed as socialist.

So the senator attempted to neutralize liberal sniping over why a foreign-born Republican would be okay in the White House after the endless right-wing harping over whether Mr. Obama was a Kenyan-born imposter ineligible to be president.

The fuss over Mr. Cruz stumped some birthers. Billionaire Donald Trump once offered $5-million to the charity of the President's choice if he would make public personal and academic documents.

Asked if Mr. Cruz could be president. Mr. Trump said: "If he was born in Canada, perhaps not," adding: "I don't know the circumstances. I heard somebody told me he was born in Canada."

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The senator was born to a Cuban father and an American mother and christened Rafael Edward Cruz. His family left Calgary for Houston when he was four. He grew up in Houston, went to Princeton and then on to Harvard for a law degree. Last year, he burst onto the political stage with an upset win in Texas. In barely seven months in the staid U.S. Senate, he has irked even some Republicans with his combative style and unwillingness to adopt the deferential demeanour expected of new member.

Speculation has swirled about Mr. Cruz's political ambitions, given his spate of public appearances in Iowa and South Carolina, two states that play early roles in presidential primaries. On Friday night, he was at a fundraiser in New Hampshire, another key state.

He has already emerged as a new standard-bearer for the Republican right, more cerebral and better educated than Sarah Palin.

Still, he is not above poking a little fun at himself. He laughed off the media frenzy over his Canadian birth as a product of the "silly season in politics."

On Thursday, using an exaggerated accent, he promised a clutch of media leaving a room where he was to meet with businessmen in Austin, Tex., that "while y'all are out, I'll try not to give any like really juicy piece of crazy news," before adding: "I am secretly a citizen of Ethiopia."

The early move to deal publicly with his foreign birthplace buttresses speculation that Mr. Cruz is clearing the way for a 2016 run for the White House.

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He would not be the first foreign-born contender. In 1968, George Romney, father of Mitt, who ran unsuccessfully against Mr. Obama last year, had to deal with questions of his eligibility because he was born in Mexico. Similar queries surfaced when John McCain, born in Panama, where his naval officer father was stationed, ran for president in 2008.

Both were U.S. citizens from birth because at least one parent was American. That applies to Mr. Cruz and Mr. Obama, whose mothers were U.S. citizens although their fathers were not.

The whole vexed issue results from ambiguity in the Constitutional requirement that a president be "natural born."

While no case has reached the Supreme Court, the widely accepted legal view is that a citizen from birth is either born in the United States or has at least one parent who was. In either case, the person would not need to acquire U.S. citizenship by naturalization. Dual citizenship is not mentioned.

As for Canada, it still regards Mr. Cruz as a native son, at least until he fills out the four-page application and sends in the $100 fee.

"For a renunciation of Canadian citizenship to be recognized in Canada, Canadian citizens must make a formal application," said Glenn Johnson, a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

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International Affairs and Security Correspondent

Paul More

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