News that U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz would deliver a major speech at Liberty University on Monday set off a wave of speculation late Friday that the Texas Republican was preparing to take a step into the 2016 presidential race.

Cruz's campaign would not confirm that but urged reporters to attend. 

Multiple sources close to Cruz said they were informed as recently as Thursday that the senator was just days away from making an announcement about his political future — either the formation of an exploratory committee or the launch of a full-blown campaign. 

A Cruz candidacy has long been considered likely as he travels to the early-voting states and builds a political operation in his hometown of Houston. Several people expected to play a role in the campaign are moving to the city or already there.

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Cruz, first elected to the Senate in a 2012 upset over former Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, will likely have a passionate following within the Republican base. Cruz has already signaled that he intends to run as an unapologetic conservative on social issues, the size of the government and on foreign policy. 

He is expected to face a crowded GOP nomination field, but also several rivals with Texas roots, including former Gov. Rick Perry, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Paul will announce April 7 that he is running for president.