Cruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Campaign Report: COVID-19 puts conventions in flux  Ted Cruz bashes Oprah for 'lecture' on race: 'What utter, racist BS' Senate Democrats prepare seven-figure spending spree in Texas MORE (R-Texas) was the most disliked member of the Senate Republican Conference for much of his first six years in Congress, but colleagues are rallying to his side in the face of a serious reelection challenge from Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D).

Polls show a tight race between Cruz and the photogenic O’Rourke, who would make history if he could pull off what would be a huge upset in the Lone Star State.

A Cruz loss would also put GOP control of the Senate very much at risk, which has senators who have sometimes been at odds with the tough-talking Texan coming to his aid.

ADVERTISEMENT

The entire Senate Republican leadership hosted a fundraiser for Cruz at the end of June, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellNegotiators remain far apart on coronavirus deal as deadline looms States begin removing Capitol's Confederate statues on their own Skepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal MORE (R-Ky.), whom Cruz once famously called a liar on the Senate floor, has made the maximum donation to Cruz’s campaign through his leadership PAC, the Bluegrass Committee.

Cruz has also received $5,000 from Senate GOP Whip John CornynJohn CornynSkepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal Republicans uncomfortably playing defense Negotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts MORE’s (Texas) leadership PAC, $10,000 from Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSkepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal GOP expects Senate to be in session next week without coronavirus deal House Republicans introduce legislation to give states 0 million for elections MORE’s (R-Mo.) Rely on Your Beliefs Fund and $10,000 from Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoLatest Trump proposal on endangered species could limit future habitat, critics say Republicans dismiss Trump proposal to delay election Barrasso nuclear bill latest GOP effort to boost uranium mining MORE (Wyo.), chairman of the Republican Policy Committee.

The open wallets aren’t surprising, but they are notable given Cruz’s past clashes with colleagues.

Cruz infuriated GOP leaders in the fall of 2013 by rallying House conservatives to oppose any government funding bill that didn’t block the implementation of ObamaCare — a political fight that resulted in a 16-day government shutdown that hurt the GOP’s brand right before a midterm election year.

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' Mark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Prominent conservatives question Jerry Falwell Jr. vacation photo MORE (R-Ariz.) at the time called the shutdown a “fool’s errand,” while Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism MORE (R-Tenn.) repeatedly criticized Cruz for leading the party into a “box canyon” from which there would be no easy escape.

McConnell later likened the painful ordeal to the “kick of a mule.”

The animosity went both ways.

Cruz once accused McConnell on the Senate of lying about a secret deal with Democrats to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.

“We know now that when the majority leader looks us in the eyes and makes an explicit commitment, that he is willing to say things that he knows are false,” Cruz fumed.

Cruz even refused to endorse Cornyn, his home-state colleague, in the 2014 Texas Senate GOP primary. Cornyn returned the gesture this year when he declined to publicly back Cruz in his primary race in March.

Things grew so acrimonious between Cruz and many of his Senate GOP colleagues that Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamYates spars with GOP at testy hearing Trump knocks Sally Yates ahead of congressional testimony Republicans uncomfortably playing defense MORE (R-S.C.) joked at the 2016 Washington Press Club Foundation Congressional Dinner, “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.”

But GOP leaders and rank-and-file Republicans alike are putting aside those differences in the face of an existential threat to Cruz’s Senate career in the form of O’Rourke, the skateboarding ex-punk rocker who has amassed a stunning $23.6 million campaign fund. The latest fundraising reports show O’Rourke with more cash on hand, $13.9 million, than Cruz, at $9.3 million.

A Republican senator who requested anonymity to discuss feelings about Cruz within the GOP caucus said his past conflicts with the party won’t hurt support from colleagues when he needs it most.

“Elections tend to bring parties together. For the most part, everyone in the caucus will want to help the party remain in power,” the lawmaker said. “Already you’ve seen some national money be directed to Texas. I imagine that the whole party will be behind Cruz in the election.”

Recent polls shows Cruz in a neck-and-neck race.

An Emerson College poll published at the end of last month showed Cruz ahead by only a point, while an NBC News–Marist poll showed him up 4 points, right around the margin of error.

Cruz has stepped up his campaigning, crisscrossing the state to meet voters and match O’Rourke’s pace.

“I’m focusing my time and energy on campaigning across the state last week. I did 17 townhalls all over the state of Texas and that’s where the time and energy is best spent,” he told The Hill.

Asked how much money the National Republican Senatorial Committee would allocate to help Cruz in Texas, Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerGroup of GOP senators back more money for airlines to pay workers OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump signs major conservation bill into law | Senate votes to confirm Energy's No. 2 official | Trump Jr. expresses opposition to Pebble Mine project Trump signs major conservation bill into law MORE (R-Colo.), the committee's chairman, said he isn’t worried about the race.

“Ted Cruz is going to win, so I’m not concerned about Texas,” he said Thursday.

O’Rourke has spent $2.8 million on ads in the general campaign, while Republicans had spent only $226,000 in the state as of Aug. 29, according to a tally by NBC News.

While colleagues have contributed to Cruz’s campaign, he doesn’t expect any of them to visit Texas in the next two months to help him on the stump.

“I don’t think Texans are likely to make a decision in this campaign based on the views of senators representing different states,” he said, noting that Cornyn has endorsed him in the general election.

Cruz campaigned for several colleagues in the 2014 midterm elections: Sens. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsThe Hill's Campaign Report: COVID-19 puts conventions in flux  The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Virus bill unlikely to pass this week Establishment-backed Marshall defeats Kobach in Kansas GOP Senate primary MORE (R-Kan.), David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanLincoln Project targets Senate races in Alaska, Maine, Montana with M ad buy Overnight Energy: Official says protesters not cleared from Lafayette Square for Trump | Trump administration blasts banks refusing to fund Arctic drilling | 2019 coal production hit lowest level since 1978 Trump administration blasts banks that refuse to fund arctic drilling MORE (R-Alaska).

Cruz’s unpopularity probably hit a high point during the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, when he pointedly declined to endorse President TrumpDonald John TrumpLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the 'Secretary of Failure' Pence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Twitter bans Trump campaign until it deletes tweet with COVID-19 misinformation MORE during a prime-time speaking slot. Angry delegates booed Cruz off the stage as Trump stood at the back of the convention, pumping his fist and egging the crowd on.

Since then, knowing his reelection would be exponentially tougher if Trump — who won the state by 9 points  — opposed him, Cruz has remade himself as more of a team player.

And he has mended his relationship with Trump, often defending the president and his policies to reporters on Capitol Hill.

Trump has vowed to repay Cruz for his loyalty by holding a major rally for him in Texas this October in the “biggest stadium” he can find.

“Ted has my complete and total endorsement,” the president declared before the Labor Day weekend.

Other Republicans who have donated to Cruz include include Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Hill's Campaign Report: COVID-19 puts conventions in flux  Negotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts Chamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelection MORE (Tenn.), $10,000; Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchSenate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  Five takeaways as panel grills tech CEOs Trump awards medal of freedom to former congressman, Olympian Jim Ryun MORE (Utah), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoTop GOP senator urges agencies to protect renters, banks amid coronavirus aid negotiations Chamber of Commerce, banking industry groups call on Senate to pass corporate diversity bill Senate panel advances Trump Fed nominee who recently supported gold standard MORE (Idaho), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziChamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelection Republicans battle over COVID-19 package's big price tag Conservative group launches ad campaign for Rep. Roger Marshall in Kansas Senate race MORE (Wyo.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSenate GOP opens door to smaller coronavirus deal as talks lag Hillicon Valley: Google extending remote work policy through July 2021 | Intel community returns final Russia report to Senate committee after declassification | Study finds election officials vulnerable to cyberattacks Intel community returns final Russia report volume to Senate after declassification review MORE (N.C.), James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  Controversial Trump nominee placed in senior role after nomination hearing canceled Chamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelection MORE (Okla.) and Sullivan, who have all given him $10,000; Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyDunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel GOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy NSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show MORE (Pa.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenators holding behind-the-scenes talks on breaking coronavirus package stalemate Overnight Defense: Pompeo pressed on move to pull troops from Germany | Panel abruptly scraps confirmation hearing | Trump meets family of slain soldier Pompeo, lawmakers tangle over Germany troop withdrawal MORE (Ohio), Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: INOVIO R&D Chief Kate Broderick 'completely confident' world will develop a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine; GOP boxed in on virus negotiations Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers zero in on Twitter after massive hack | US, UK, Canada allege Russian hackers targeted COVID-19 vaccine researchers | Top EU court rules data transfer deal with the US is illegal Lawmakers zero in on Twitter following massive hack MORE (Miss.) and Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseDemocrats seek to exploit Trump-GOP tensions in COVID-19 talks On The Trail: The first signs of a post-Trump GOP McConnell: 15-20 GOP senators will not vote for any coronavirus deal MORE (Neb.), who all gave $5,000; and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottLobbyists see wins, losses in GOP coronavirus bill Revered civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis lies in state in the Capitol GOP plan would boost deduction for business meals MORE (S.C.), who donated $2,000, according to campaign finance records verified by the Cruz campaign.