Ted Cruz won the first test with American voters Monday night in the Iowa caucuses, claiming victory over Donald Trump for the Republican nomination for president. The win gives Cruz a huge boost heading into the next test on Tuesday when voters in New Hampshire will pick their preferred presidential nominees.

Here's a closer look at the candidate who hopes Monday's momentum will carry him all the way to the White House.

1. He was Canadian 

Cruz, whose birth name is Rafael, was born in Calgary in 1970 to an American mother and a Cuban father. His parents met in the U.S., and worked in Alberta's oilpatch for a few years. Cruz left Canada when he was four and grew up in Texas. After learning in 2013 that he had dual citizenship, thanks to a newspaper report, Cruz cut ties with Canada. His citizenship renunciation was granted in 2014. Trump has cast doubt on whether Cruz's birthplace makes him ineligible to run for president, arguing it's an unsettled legal question. Cruz says he does meet the constitutional requirements to run.

2. He's a first-term U.S. senator 

Cruz pulled off an upset victory when he ran for a Senate seat in Texas in 2012. He quickly made his mark when he arrived in Washington, establishing himself as a far-right favourite and Tea Party champion. Remember that U.S. government shutdown in 2013 that lasted more than two weeks? Cruz led that effort. It made him unpopular with many of his fellow Republicans because the public laid the blame squarely on the party.

3. He really hates Obamacare 

Cruz's loathing of the Affordable Care Act is what motivated him to help shut down the government in 2013.

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Cruz, seen speaking at a meeting of the Heritage Foundation in 2013, is a major opponent of Obamacare. (Michael Ainsworth/Dallas Morning News/AP)

He's promised to repeal it if elected to the White House.

He also wants to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and rip up the Iran nuclear deal, among other campaign promises. But Obamacare is one of Cruz's biggest targets.

4. He is a skilled debater (and once spoke for 21 hours straight)

Cruz is really good at talking...and talking...and talking. His victory speech Monday night, for example, went on for more than half an hour. Cruz went to Princeton and was an award-winning member of the debate team.

He is in his element when the spotlight's on him and he's making a speech. He's put his formidable oratory skills to good use in the Senate. In advance of the government shutdown in 2013, Cruz spoke for 21 hours straight about why Obamacare should be defunded. Canadians might remember headlines about Cruz reading Green Eggs and Ham as part of that marathon speech.

5. He has a Harvard law degree

Cruz got his law degree at Harvard and his resume includes a clerkship at the U.S. Supreme Court and years of working in private practice with a Houston firm. After working on George W. Bush's presidential campaign in 2000, Bush appointed him to a job at the Department of Justice. In 2003, he went back to Texas when he was appointed solicitor general. In his five years in that position he worked on some high profile cases and argued before the Supreme Court nine times.

6. He was first in the Republican race 

It was no secret that Cruz planned on running for the nomination and he laid the groundwork for months. He was the first candidate to announce he was going for it, and he launched his campaign in March 2015 at Liberty University in Virginia, the world's biggest Christian college founded by the late televangelist Jerry Falwell.

7. He is popular with conservative Christians 

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Cruz launched his campaign at Liberty University in Virginia in March 2015. It's an influential Christian school founded by the late Jerry Falwell. Falwell's son is now the school's president and he endorsed Donald Trump, not Cruz. (Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)

Cruz is a devoted Christian who talks often about his faith. It likely stung a little that Liberty University's president Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsed Trump over Cruz — but Cruz's appeal to evangelicals was strong enough that it helped him claim victory in Iowa, where 60 per cent of voters identify as evangelical.

Cruz worked hard to earn their support and so did his father, a pastor, who campaigned for his son all over Iowa. 

Defending religious freedom is one of Cruz's key campaign promises. He was not happy when the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage last June.

8. He is not popular on Capitol Hill  

Cruz is not a popular guy in the Senate. People in his own party don't like his attitude or his tactics. Arizona senator and 2008 presidential nominee John McCain labelled Cruz a "wacko bird." Bob Dole, another prominent conservative, recently said bluntly that "nobody likes him" and he's worried about the damage he would do to the Republican Party if he won the nomination.

Cruz has never been shy about criticizing his colleagues in public either, and is totally OK with their lack of support (zero senators have endorsed him). In fact, he's made it part of his brand. He portrays himself as the anti-establishment conservative champion who fights for what he believes in regardless of whether it makes him friends or not. He promises voters he will stand up to the "Washington cartel."

9. He's a husband and father 

Cruz has two young daughters with his wife Heidi — a fellow Harvard graduate. She's a power player in the business world. She left a high-paying job at the giant investment firm Goldman Sachs to be on the campaign trail. Her job has been used as fodder by Cruz's opponents, including Trump. Cruz portrays himself as someone who stands up to lobbyists and to Wall Street's influence over Washington. Trump's used that against him, saying "he is in bed" with Wall Street and has used its money to fund his political campaigns. Cruz was recently in hot water for not properly disclosing a loan he got from Goldman Sachs for his Senate campaign.

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Sen. Ted Cruz, his wife Heidi, and their two daughters Catherine, 4, left, and Caroline, 6, right, wave on stage after he announced his campaign for president in March, 2015. (Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)