The senator who famously urged his fellow Republicans at the 2016 GOP convention to “vote your conscience” instead of asking them to support party nominee Donald Trump is now seeking help from the man he couldn’t bring himself to stomach two short years ago.
President Trump announced on Twitter that he will be “picking the biggest stadium in Texas we can find” to hold a giant rally for his formerly implacable foe, Sen. Ted Cruz, who finds himself in a tougher-than-expected re-election race against Democrat Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
I will be doing a major rally for Senator Ted Cruz in October. I’m picking the biggest stadium in Texas we can find. As you know, Ted has my complete and total Endorsement. His opponent is a disaster for Texas – weak on Second Amendment, Crime, Borders, Military, and Vets!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 31, 2018
That Cruz is struggling with a lightweight candidate like O’Rourke, who had almost no name visibility in Texas before a recent “surge” made him a current media darling, reveals once again how deeply unlikable the abrasive, wildly ambitious first-term senator is.
Hugs for Votes
How does a Republican in Texas, where a Democrat has not won a state-wide election since 1994, have to even worry about an opponent who loves trilling Oprah-like platitudes about immigration “anxieties”? And whose recent vocal support for the right of oppressed multi-millionaire NFL athletes to take a knee and disrespect the national anthem has catapulted him to an appearance on Ellen DeGeneres’s daytime TV show?
O’Rourke, who has been touring every nook and cranny of the state as a way to both generate name recognition and overcome the modern Democrat weakness of winning in urban areas and losing everywhere else, enjoys waxing touchy-feely about the very strong concerns those same rural Texans he is trying to attract have about our porous southern border, which just happens to abut his state.
“We’re going to be sharing the story of El Paso at every stop along the way,” he has said, mentioning his south Texas hometown. “This city should be an example for the rest of the country. This is not a time to fear one another, not a time to be motivated by the small stuff, the paranoia, the anxiety, the walls…”
The wall-paranoia theme has been part of O’Rourke’s playbook for quite a while, as a February 2017 interview with the Texas Observer shows. Here is standard Beto pop-psychology boilerplate:
“As a country, we project our anxieties, fears and sometimes disappointments at losing jobs or not being as competitive, and instead of looking inward and thinking about what we could do different, it is so much easier politically to blame the outsider.
And the outsider, for us, begins at the U.S.-border. Canadians for the most part look like us, but really Mexico is our connection to the rest of the world.”
This kind of “I’m OK, you’re OK” emotional tripe may work well with Ellen’s TV audience, but is this really the way to win a Senate race in a traditionally conservative state like Texas?
That there even is a race falls squarely at the feet of Cruz. His conniving campaign to win the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 after serving a couple of years shamelessly grandstanding in the Senate curiously managed to earn him the deep-seated antipathy of both establishment Republicans and Trump supporters.
Famously called “Lyin’ Ted” by Trump throughout the presidential campaign, Cruz positioned himself as the ultimate outsider despite his wife’s Goldman Sachs employment history and his own long-time ties to the George W. Bush administration.
He ran as a hard-liner on immigration and still does so today, yet his history proves him to be anything but.
Cruz served as the “policy board chairman” of a Hispanic Republican astroturf group that actually touted John McCain in the 2008 presidential election as a stronger advocate for immigration reform (read: amnesty) than Democrat Barack Obama.
Hispanic conservative activist Robert G. de Posada, founder and past president of The Latino Coalition and a former Director of Hispanic Affairs at the Republican National Committee, recalls Cruz actively pushing the McCain-Kennedy immigration reform bill from 2005-2007, which would have granted amnesty to millions of illegal aliens. “At the time, many conservative Latinos were being lobbied and pressured by [the Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity Institute] members, including Mr. Cruz, to support McCain’s bill,” de Posada wrote in an op-ed for The Daily Caller.
Perhaps due to duplicitous acts such as these, Cruz naturally came across to most Americans as manipulative at best and absolutely phony at worst during his presidential run, and the impression has stuck.
Cruz grasped before most GOP establishment figures that a populist wave was about to engulf them all, and began positioning himself to take advantage with his peacock-like grandstanding early in his Senate career.
Above all, he seems akin to the classic pandering Republican who had his heyday in the 1990s and 2000s. The politician who would briefly spout some generic line about “caring for all human life” in a thinly-veiled attempt to placate pro-lifers or brandish a rifle in his clammy hands to try to overtly appeal to gun-rights supporters before getting back to the business of carrying water for his donor-class supporters.
That Cruz was the final candidate in the race to concede Trump’s triumph, serving as the establishment’s last hope to avert a true populist reckoning at the bitter end, leads one to wonder just how contrived his whole act was all along.
And now here he is calling on Trump, the man he wouldn’t stop fighting even after he lost the GOP nomination battle in 2016, to help him win re-election. It’s a perfect position for the president to find himself in. If he helps Cruz win, Trump gets credit for holding onto a Republican seat in the Senate after another of his once-fiercest GOP critics kisses the ring, as both Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio had to do, with Romney’s public humiliation being the more conspicuous act of the two.
And as a result, nobody is taking any Romney or Rubio statements critical of Trump seriously anymore. They have had the floor sawed out from under them. Both are forever diminished as opponents to Trump’s efforts to re-make the GOP in line with his agenda, a task that is every bit as important as defeating Democrats in elections.
Perhaps even more important.
This is the future a re-elected Cruz has to look forward to in his tarnished role as Trump Critic.
And if Cruz actually manages to lose to upstart O’Rourke it emphasizes just how unpopular Republicans not authentically aligned with Trump are. This would further advance the president’s task of party rebuilding, boosting it more in fact than a Cruz victory would provide.
There is no way Trump does not come out looking good from this. Call it the ‘Art of the Political Deal.’