Cruz won't praise Gillespie after Va. entrance

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) refused say whether he thinks former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie (R) will be a good candidate for Virginia's Senate race, putting the National Republican Senatorial Committee vice chairman at odds with its chairman and many in his party.

Cruz repeatedly refused to say what he thinks of Gillespie's background or chances as a candidate against Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.).

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"I like Ed Gillespie, he is a friend of mine, he's a good man. That's ultimately a decision for the voters of Virginia," Cruz told The Hill on Thursday evening, hours after Gillespie entered the race.

He demurred when asked if he thought Gillespie could unite Republican activists behind him and give Warner a tough challenge, pivoting to an attack on Warner and avoiding any comment on Gillespie's credentials.

"That is a decision for the voters of Virginia to make. But I can tell you Mark Warner is not listening to millions of Virginians who are hurting under the Obama economic agenda. Mark Warner is not listening to millions of Virginians who lost their job, lost their health insurance, have been forced into part-time work," he said.

Cruz then cut the conversation short when asked if that meant he wasn't that thrilled with Gillespie as a candidate, repeatedly saying "I've got to get to a vote" and jumping into an elevator.

The Texas senator and Tea Party favorite told the Dallas Morning News last August that he planned to stay out of contested GOP primaries.

“It is likely that I am going to stay out of incumbent primaries across the country, either supporting incumbents or opposing incumbents," he said then.

Still, his comments stand in contrast to those from NRSC Chairman Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), who said the party was "delighted" that Gillespie was running.

"We're delighted to have Mr. Gillespie in the race in Virginia. He's a highly credible candidate who has great political skills but most importantly cares greatly about the people of the commonwealth of Virginia," he said.

Cruz has long been a thorn in the side of establishment Republicans, and there has been grumbling that he has done little to help the NRSC in its goal of winning back the Senate. The comments are the latest example that he is often not on the same page as other national Republicans. 

His seeming diss comes despite support for his own Senate campaign from Gillespie's family. Gillespie and his wife both donated to Cruz during his 2012 campaign. Cathy Gillespie donated to Cruz in November 2011, during his hotly contested Senate primary against Texas Lieutenant Gov. David Dewhurst (R), the establishment favorite in the race.

Gillespie is a former lobbyist and senior adviser to President George W. Bush, and some local Republican activists have said they have some concerns about his work in both capacities. Gillespie will need to win the nomination at a GOP convention packed with conservative activists before he can face Warner — something that seems likely but isn't guaranteed at this point.

This post was updated at 12:55 p.m.