WASHINGTON (AP) — Ted Cruz’s political profession already featured many shock twists earlier than a jaunt to Mexico this week introduced him a brand new degree of notoriety.
The Texas senator was as soon as the most important menace to Donald Trump capturing the 2016 presidential nomination. Throughout a very bitter stretch of that yr’s Republican main, Cruz known as Trump a “coward” and “pathological liar.” By final month, nevertheless, Cruz was one among Trump’s staunchest allies and a pacesetter within the former president’s baseless try and overturn the November election.
Such shifts are meant to maintain Cruz in a robust place with the GOP base if he runs for the White Home once more in 2024. However they’ve additionally turned him into one among Washington’s most villainized figures, somebody keen to take any politically handy place if it retains his future ambitions alive.
Cruz is beneath additional assault for touring to Cancun whereas his constituents suffered by means of a lethal winter storm that left tons of of hundreds with out energy and operating water. His clarification — that his daughters pushed for the getaway as a result of they had been out of faculty — was significantly panned.
The optics of the journey are hardly supreme. However the query is whether or not, three years earlier than he faces voters once more, the political fallout will final.
“Ted Cruz is feeling the primary post-Trump controversy,” mentioned New Hampshire-based Republican strategist Mike Biundo. “I don’t assume anyone is aware of precisely what’s going to occur on this new actuality that we’re dwelling in.”
Earlier than Trump obtained to Washington, scandals, lies and typically even easy however main gaffes wrecked political careers.
Regardless of later profitable a congressional seat, former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford will ceaselessly be remembered for fabricating a trek alongside the Appalachian Path, simply as former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner was undone by repeated sexting scandals and ex-Texas Gov. Rick Perry couldn’t stay down the controversy stage second of forgetting the third of three federal businesses he’d promised to eradicate.
As soon as Trump was within the White Home, his outlandish antics attracted a lot consideration that one thing that merely seemed dangerous, like a senator’s leaving on trip whereas his state was struggling, would not obtain a lot discover.
Cruz is now navigating how a lot injury management is required in a post-Trump political panorama.
He rushed house on Thursday and advised reporters the journey was “clearly a mistake.” However he made no public appearances on Friday, and his workplace did not reply questions on his schedule or what he was doing to assist Texans deal with the storm. His workplace merely launched a press release backing Gov. Greg Abbott’s request for federal help.
Nonetheless, Cruz remains to be the best-known chief within the nation’s largest pink state, with a far greater nationwide profile than Abbott, who has additionally been talked about as a attainable 2024 presidential contender, and Sen. John Cornyn, who coasted to reelection final yr by a extra comfy margin than Cruz, who narrowly edged Democrat Beto O’Rourke in 2018.
Alice Stewart, a GOP strategist and veteran of Cruz’s presidential marketing campaign, famous that the senator has years earlier than he’ll need to run for reelection or president or each in 2024. That is loads of time to place the Cancun journey “within the rearview mirror,” even when Cruz’s political opponents will proceed to trumpet it.
“Individuals have come to tolerate much more throughout and after the period of Trump,” mentioned Stewart, who famous that whereas social media typically intensifies political scandals, it additionally tends to shorten their lifespans.
Rick Tyler additionally labored for Cruz’s 2016 marketing campaign however has incessantly criticized the senator for kowtowing to Trump since then. He mentioned that “when Texas was down and out and embarrassed, frankly,” Cruz’s journey to the seaside was unforgivable: “There is no approach that is going to be forgotten.”
“Cruz could be very beatable,” Tyler mentioned of the senator’s reelection prospects, particularly if he tries once more for the White Home the identical yr. “He is obtained to determine. By doing one or the opposite, you threat dropping each.”
After all, Cruz has successfully used being one among Washington’s most detested figures to his benefit up to now. He got here to Congress as a conservative rebel who infuriated each events — even prompting fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to as soon as joke that no senator would convict one among their very own for murdering Cruz within the chamber.
In 2016, Cruz received the Iowa caucuses and proved to have a stable nationwide base of help, organising a tense main battle that may final for months. At one level, Trump attacked the seems of Cruz’s spouse and baselessly recommended that his father had a hand within the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Cruz lashed out at Trump in response and was later booed off the stage at that yr’s Republican Nationwide Conference for failing to endorse the New Yorker.
However within the 4 years since, Cruz remodeled into one among Trump’s largest champions in Congress.
Amongst these near Cruz, there’s a sense that the senator harm himself politically this week however that he stays effectively positioned for one more White Home bid ought to he choose to run once more. His workforce believes Cruz is the most well-liked potential 2024 candidate not named Trump amongst probably Republican main voters.
Cruz was a fundraising pressure for his Republican colleagues within the Home and Senate main as much as November’s election. And his personal fundraising has surged within the months since — together with after he stood in opposition to the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory in early January. His small-dollar donor base, particularly, which was giant to start with, has grown dramatically, aides say.
Even amid requires Cruz to resign for his function in serving to encourage Trump supporters who staged a lethal rebellion on the U.S. Capitol, Republicans in San Antonio organized a rally celebrating him as “brave.”
Cruz can be planning to attend subsequent week’s influential Conservative Political Motion Convention, the place he can additional ingratiate himself with the GOP’s most fervent activists, who aren’t prone to maintain Cancun in opposition to him.
Cruz allies observe that the second-place finisher within the earlier Republican main typically turns into the nominee within the subsequent election. However shifting ahead, there’s a sense internally that Cruz’s political energy is immediately linked to his relationship with Trump, whose emotions are troublesome to gauge.
Regina Thomson, a former Cruz loyalist who fought Trump’s nomination on the 2016 GOP conference, has since warmed to Trump. She mentioned that Cruz’s Cancun journey did not hassle her, however that in the end, she and different conservative activists would probably comply with Trump’s lead.
“In case you would ask loads of (Cruz’s former) grassroots supporters in the present day, they’d say Trump did such a great job they’d like him to run once more,” Thomson mentioned. “And if Trump doesn’t run, I believe lots of people will look to him to see who he’s supporting.”
Peoples reported from New York.