Ted Cruz Won’t Campaign Against Republican Incumbents
After a month in which he burned many bridges among his fellow Senate Republicans, Texas Senator Ted Cruz is telling his colleagues that he will not be involved in any effort to defeat sitting Republican Senators in primaries next year:
Extending an olive branch to GOP senators, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is privately making it clear he won’t engage in the Senate Conservatives Fund’s hardball tactics to defeat his colleagues in their primary races.
At a closed-door lunch meeting of Senate Republicans Wednesday, the freshman conservative told his colleagues that he would not intervene in their 2014 primary fights or fundraise for the controversial outside group. Cruz added that the SCF’s decision to try to defeat sitting GOP senators in their primaries was its alone, according to several people familiar with the session.
According to one source familiar with the meeting in the Senate’s Mansfield Room, Cruz noted that Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky wouldn’t fundraise for the group and promised that his image would be removed from its materials. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Cruz that Paul took such an action six months ago, but he thanked the Texas conservative for doing so. Other GOP senators also thanked Cruz, sources say.
The comments illustrate the challenges facing Cruz as he builds his national profile as a conservative firebrand unafraid to take on his party — but who is also forced to work, lunch and gather with his fellow GOP senators during weeks when Congress is in session. Cruz, a prospective 2016 presidential candidate, became a pariah with his GOP Senate colleagues during the 16-day government shutdown when he aligned himself closely with the SCF and slammed his GOP colleagues as timid Washington insiders afraid to defund Obamacare.
One source said Cruz made clear to his colleagues at the Wednesday meeting that he would not associate himself with the group any longer. But a Cruz spokeswoman said the senator would still be involved with the group’s effort in “promoting conservative causes.”
The spokeswoman, Catherine Frazier, said Cruz reiterated to the GOP senators his previous statements that he wouldn’t get involved in their primary fights. At the meeting, Cruz pointed to a statement the SCF recently issued that neither him, Paul nor Lee was involved in its endorsement decisions, Frazier said.
“He’ll continue working with them to promote common conservative policies but not get involved in their endorsement or fundraising decisions,” Frazier said. “SCF’s organization is not just about primary politics but promoting conservative causes that Republicans across the spectrum can support.”
The spokeswoman added: “Sen. Cruz’s comments both publicly and privately have been consistent — he will likely not get involved in incumbent primaries.”
This means that we won’t be seeing Cruz, Paul, or Lee, getting involved in primary battles in Kentucky or South Carolina, although we already knew that Paul was supporting Mitch McConnell for re-election. Politically, it’s a fairly smart move for all three of them both because it avoids setting the precedent of other Senators campaigning against them at some point in the future and because, in the end, they still need to work with these people on a daily basis.