Rep. Steve StockmanSteve StockmanCruz will skip State of the Union Ethics: Lawmakers didn’t ‘knowingly’ break rules with Azerbaijan gifts Lawmakers deny knowledge of secret funding for 2013 trip MORE's (R-Texas) announcement that he would challenge the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, John CornynJohn CornynSenate Democrats dig in as shutdown approaches Overnight Energy: Fight over miners' benefits risks shutdown | Flint aid crosses finish line in House Overnight Finance: Senate Dems dig in as shutdown looms | Trump taps fast-food exec for Labor chief | Portland's new CEO tax MORE (Texas), ignited Twitter — prompting surprise, intrigue and rebuke.
The freshman congressman has developed a wide social media presence, rankling some while igniting other conservatives with his strong criticism of President Obama.
News of Stockman's primary challenge broke around 8 p.m. on Monday. Both men were trending in D.C. soon after.
Stockman himself entered the conversation late, sending out a series of links to stories announcing his run.
Tea-party favorite takes on GOP big name http://t.co/oXxZAsF7zu— Rep. Steve Stockman (@StockmanSenate) December 10, 2013
Stockman started trending as the news first broke around 8 p.m.
Cornyn began trending shortly after.
Washington Examiner Online Editor Justin Green noted Stockman's prolific Twitter presence and his ability to get under some people's skin.
I love the trolling from @SteveWorks4You, which has reached a new level— justin green (@JGreenDC) December 10, 2013
BuzzFeed's Washington Bureau Chief John Stanton harkened back to Stockman's decision to invite Ted Nugent to be his guest to the State of the Union earlier this year.
Can't wait for STeve Stockman ads hammering John Cornyn to a Ted Nugent soundtrack— john r stanton (@dcbigjohn) December 10, 2013
Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling noted that a poll from last month showed Republican primary voters expressed interest in a more conservative candidate in Texas.
We found last month TX Republicans preferred a 'more conservative' alternative over Cornyn 49/33. If Stockman raises money...— PublicPolicyPolling (@ppppolls) December 10, 2013
However, David Plouffe, President Obama's campaign manager in 2008, noted the short timeframe for Stockman to launch a serious challenge. The primary is slated for March 4, and early voting begins before that.
National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brad Dayspring said Stockman would be defeated, noting Cornyn's conservative record.
NRSC: We are proud to support Sen. Cornyn and while this primary challenge is quite the head scratcher, it will be defeated. #TXsen— Brad Dayspring (@BDayspring) December 10, 2013
Brian Walsh, a former NRSC spokesman, pointed out some of Stockman's liabilities early.
Stockman fired two congressional staffers after disclosures that both made prohibited contributions to his campaign. http://t.co/6BK24x1zYt— Brian Walsh (@brianjameswalsh) December 10, 2013
Political Wire's Taegan Goddard summed it up in blunt terms.
If you're a Republican, this is a real shit show http://t.co/sbkS9naxPO— Taegan Goddard (@politicalwire) December 10, 2013
Cornyn's official office communications director underplayed the news.
In other important TX news tonight, bears v cowboys in chicago— Megan Mitchell (@MeganMitchell) December 10, 2013
But a spokesman for Cornyn's campaign did not pull any punches.
When Sen. Cornyn was fighting Obamacare on Christmas Eve 2009, where was Rep. Stockman?— Drew Brandewie (@DBrandewie) December 10, 2013
FIscal conservative Rep. Stockman's campaign is $163,000 in debt— Drew Brandewie (@DBrandewie) December 10, 2013
Fiscal conservative Rep. Steve Stockman has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.— Drew Brandewie (@DBrandewie) December 10, 2013
Open-government champion Rep. Steve Stockman won't file financial dislcosure forms required by House rules.— Drew Brandewie (@DBrandewie) December 10, 2013
Govt. transparency advocate Rep. Stockman has refused to "provid[e] details about the business he said was his only source of income."— Drew Brandewie (@DBrandewie) December 10, 2013