Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Rand Paul takes victory lap on GOP health bill Senators push Trump on defense deals with India MORE (R-Texas) has hired former FreedomWorks grassroots director and Texas native Brendan Steinhauser to run his reelection campaign, a sign he's focused on shoring up his right flank to avoid a potential primary challenge.
Steinhauser, while at FreedomWorks, pushed hard to help now-Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzHow 'Big Pharma' stifles pharmaceutical innovation AIPAC must reach out to President Trump Under pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support MORE (R-Texas) pull off a primary upset against Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) in 2012, and has close ties with the state's Tea Party activists.
"The midterm elections in 2014 will be vital to the future of our country and our state, especially given the interest that liberal Democrats have shown in trying to turn Texas blue," Cornyn said. "I look forward to working with my team to ensure that Texas remains red. Brendan has been working hard for conservative policies and candidates in more than 40 states, and I am excited that he is joining our team in Texas."
Steinhauser called Cornyn a "conservative leader that I admire and respect."
"Senator Cornyn has been fighting for Texas values for a long time and I look forward to working hard to ensure that he continues to lead the fight for these values in the U.S. Senate," he said.
That Cruz-Dewhurst primary put Cornyn in a somewhat awkward spot at the time. He was heading the National Republican Senatorial Committee and actively worked to avoid any appearance of taking sides in the primary, even refusing to say who he voted for in the race.
FreedomWorks and other conservative groups caused Cornyn some other headaches in 2012 by pushing hardline conservatives in primaries in contested Senate races.
Cornyn appears to be safe in both the primary and general election at this point. But the move further shores him up on the right and gives him someone to reach out to Tea Party activists who haven't traditionally been Cornyn's biggest fans.
The hire mirrors the move by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellThe Memo: Winners and losers from the battle over health care GOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Under pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support MORE (R) to bring on Jesse Benton, a top strategist for Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulGOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Rand Paul takes victory lap on GOP health bill Paul: Pence should oversee Senate ObamaCare repeal votes MORE (R-Ky.), to run his campaign.
Both McConnell and Cornyn have faced criticism on the right and have sought to blunt that by making sure there is little daylight between themselves and their states' junior senators, as well as by bringing on some of those senators' close allies to run their races.