Ted Cruz: Not the first W.H. hopeful to face eligibility questions

Losing Campaigns

In 1962, George Romney announced what would be a successful candidacy for governor of Michigan with his wife, Lenore, and Mitt, the youngest of their four children.

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As Republican candidate Ted Cruz faces questions over whether he's a "natural born citizen" - and therefore constitutionally eligible to be president - here's a look back at another time the question of naturalization became a topic on "Face the Nation" back in 1966, when Michigan Governor George Romney was mulling a possible presidential run.

MR. BENTON: Governor, there is one point that continually perplexes people who think they would like to see George Romney running for the Presidency and that is the fact that you were born in Mexico and lived there for the first five years of your life. The Constitution, as you know, says natural born citizens are eligible for the Presidency. Have you ever researched the point? Are you sure you could serve if elected as President?

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Well, I know some others have researched it and I understand that in those instances they have concluded that a citizen born of American parents is a natural born citizen. Now I know I was naturally born--my mother only had a midwife so I don't think there is any question about my being naturally born. I was born an American citizen because both my parents were American citizens.

For Cruz and Romney alike, the question boils down to who exactly is a "natural born citizen" as defined by the Constitution.

On "Face the Nation" in 1966, George Romney joked about the actual definition of being naturally born:
"My mother only had a midwife so I don't think there is any question about my being naturally born."

Cruz also used humor to address Trump's allegation about his eligibility for the Presidency, replying to Trump's accusation with a "jump the shark" clip from "Happy Days". He later told CBS News, "This issue is a non-issue."

Face the Nation 2016 diary, January 6: Trump ... 03:12

John McCain, who won his party's nomination in 2008, had to combat a similar problem. McCain was born in Panama, where his father was stationed while serving in the U.S. Navy in 1936. But, unlike Cruz, McCain was born in a U.S. territory.

"This is something constitutional scholars should make a decision on," McCain said in a recent radio interview about Cruz. "I assume that he is eligible, that's my assumption, and I will continue to assume that until it is contradicted."

Romney faced probing questions about his own "natural born" status. Back in 1967, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Emanuel Celler said he had "serious doubts" about whether Romney was eligible for the Presidency. Ultimately his perspective was outweighed by other legal scholars who argued that he was eligible under the Nationalization Act of 1790, which states that the children of citizens of the United States "shall be considered as natural born citizens." Romney didn't get far enough in the race for the legality to be tested.

George Romney's son, 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, has brushed aside the questions about Cruz. "[Ted Cruz] is a 'natural born citizen.' Obama too. Even George Romney. This isn't the issue you're looking for," he wrote on Twitter.

For what it's worth, most legal scholars agree with Romney that Cruz is eligible for the presidency. The Constitution says that only "natural-born citizens" can be president, but it does not clearly define the term. Most legal scholars argue that a natural-born citizen is one who does not have to be naturalized to obtain citizenship, but rather, one who is a citizen by birth. And there is no question Cruz was a U.S. citizen at the time of his birth, because although he was born in Alberta, Canada, in 1970, his mother was born in Delaware.

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    Louise Dufresne is an Associate Producer for Face the Nation.