Ted Cruz’s trip tests scandal’s durability, voters’ memory after leaving Texas after deadly storm
Ted Cruz’s political career had many twists and turns before a trip to Mexico this week brought him to a new level of notoriety.
The Texas senator was once the biggest threat to Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential nomination. During a particularly bitter period of that year’s Republican primary, Cruz called Trump a “coward” and “Pathological liar”. Last month, however, Cruz was one of Trump’s staunchest allies and a leader in the former president’s baseless attempt to overturn the November election.
Such changes are meant to keep Cruz in a strong position with the GOP base if he runs for the White House again in 2024. But they have also turned him into one of Washington’s ugliest figures, someone willing to take any politically convenient position if he keeps his future ambitions alive.
Cruz is the subject of a new attack for traveling to Cancun as his constituents suffered a deadly winter storm that left hundreds of thousands of people without electricity or running water. His explanation – which his daughters pushed for the getaway because they weren’t in school – has been particularly criticized.
The perspective of travel is hardly ideal. But the question is whether, three years before facing voters again, the political fallout will last.
“Ted Cruz is feeling the first post-Trump controversy,” New Hampshire-based Republican strategist Mike Biundo said. “I don’t think anyone knows exactly what will happen in this new reality we live in.”
Before Trump arrived in Washington, scandals, lies and sometimes even simple but major blunders destroyed political careers.
Although he later won a seat in Congress, former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford will be forever remembered for fabricating a hike along the Appalachian Trail, as will former Rep. Of New York Anthony Weiner was destroyed by repeated sexting scandals and ex-Texas Governor Rick Perry couldn’t live the moment of the debate scene to forget the third of three federal agencies he had promised to eliminate.
Once Trump was in the White House, his weird antics attracted so much attention that something that looked bad, like a senator going on vacation while his condition was in pain, wouldn’t have received much. attention.
Cruz is now in the process of determining how much damage control is needed in a post-Trump political landscape.
He rushed home Thursday and told reporters the trip was “obviously a mistake.” But he made no public appearances on Friday, and his office did not answer questions about his schedule or what he was doing to help the Texans weather the storm. His office simply issued a statement supporting Governor Greg Abbott’s request for federal assistance.
Yet Cruz is still the best-known leader of the country’s largest red state, with a much higher national profile than Abbott, who was also mentioned as a possible 2024 presidential candidate, and Senator John Cornyn, who was re-elected last year. by a more comfortable margin than Cruz, who narrowly edged Democrat Beto O’Rourke in 2018.
Alice Stewart, GOP strategist and veteran of Cruz’s presidential campaign, noted that the senator has years before he or she is due for re-election or for president or both in 2024. That’s a long time to put the trip to Cancun “in the rearview mirror”. », Even if Cruz’s political opponents will continue to trumpet him.
“People have come to tolerate a lot more during and after the Trump era,” said Stewart, who noted that while social media often intensifies political scandals, it also tends to shorten its lifespan.
Rick Tyler also worked for Cruz’s campaign in 2016, but has frequently criticized the senator for bowing down to Trump since then. He said that “when Texas was depressed and embarrassed, frankly,” Cruz’s trip to the beach was unforgivable: “There’s no way this will be forgotten.”
“Cruz is very beatable,” Tyler said of the senator’s re-election prospects, especially if he tries again for the White House that same year. “He has to decide. By doing either, you risk losing both.
Of course, Cruz did use being one of Washington’s most hated personalities to his advantage in the past. He came to Congress as a Tory insurgent who infuriated both parties – even prompting fellow Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to joke once no senator convicted one of their own for Cruz’s murder in bedroom.
In 2016, Cruz won the Iowa caucuses and proved to have a strong national base of support, setting up a tense primary fight that would last for months. At one point, Trump attacked Cruz’s wife’s appearance and suggested baselessly that her father was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Cruz lashed out at Trump in response and was then booed from the stage at that year’s Republican National Convention for not endorsing the New Yorker.
But over the next four years, Cruz became one of Trump’s greatest champions in Congress.
Among those close to Cruz, we have the feeling that the senator was injured politically this week, but that he remains well placed for another candidacy for the White House if he decides to stand again. His team believe Cruz is the most popular 2024 potential candidate not named Trump among likely Republican primary voters.
Cruz was a fundraising force for his fellow Republicans in the House and Senate ahead of the November election. And his own fundraising increased in the months that followed, including after opposing President Joe Biden’s certification of victory in early January. Its base of small donors, in particular, which was initially large, has grown significantly, according to its staff.
Even amid calls for Cruz to step down for his role in cheering on Trump supporters who staged a deadly insurgency on the United States Capitol, Republicans in San Antonio staged a rally celebrating him as “brave.”
Cruz also plans to attend next week’s influential Conservative Political Action Conference, where he can do more to befriend the more staunch GOP activists, who are unlikely to hold Cancun against him.
Cruz’s allies note that the runner-up in the previous Republican primary often becomes the candidate in the next elections. But going forward, there is a sense internally that Cruz’s political strength is directly tied to his relationship with Trump, whose feelings are difficult to assess.
Regina Thomson, a former Cruz loyalist who fought Trump’s nomination at the 2016 GOP convention, has since warmed up to Trump. She said Cruz’s trip to Cancun didn’t bother her, but ultimately she and other conservative activists would likely follow Trump’s lead.
“If you asked a lot of (former) Cruz base supporters today, they would say Trump did such a good job that they would like him to run again,” Thomson said. “And if Trump doesn’t show up, I think a lot of people will look to him to see who he’s supporting.”