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

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Dem debate contenders take aim at Warren The Hill's Morning Report - Trump grapples with Turkey controversy This week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington 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.

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The entire Senate Republican leadership hosted a fundraiser for Cruz at the end of June, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPatient advocates launch drug pricing ad campaign Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs War of words at the White House 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 CornynSuccession at DHS up in the air as Trump set to nominate new head Trying to kick tobacco again This week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington MORE’s (Texas) leadership PAC, $10,000 from Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP warns Graham letter to Pelosi on impeachment could 'backfire' Senate eyes attempt to jump-start government funding bills The Hill's Morning Report - Trump grapples with Turkey controversy MORE’s (R-Mo.) Rely on Your Beliefs Fund and $10,000 from Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoTo stave off a recession, let's pass a transportation infrastructure bill Overnight Defense: GOP wary of action on Iran | Pence says US 'locked and loaded' to defend allies | Iran's leader rules out talks with US GOP senator: Iran is behind attack on Saudi Arabia 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 McCainLawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show Meghan McCain: It's 'breaking my heart' Warren is leading Biden in the polls The Hill's 12:30 Report: Video depicting Trump killing media, critics draws backlash MORE (R-Ariz.) at the time called the shutdown a “fool’s errand,” while Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump's GOP impeachment firewall holds strong George Conway hits Republicans for not saying Trump's name while criticizing policy Trump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid 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 GrahamCheney unveils Turkey sanctions legislation Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs War of words at the White House 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 GardnerGOP warns Graham letter to Pelosi on impeachment could 'backfire' The Hill's Morning Report - Dem debate contenders take aim at Warren Schumer seeks focus on health care amid impeachment fever 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 RobertsJeffress dismisses evangelical opposition to Trump's Syria decision: Not one will 'switch their vote' Overnight Defense: Trump defends Turkey amid fierce criticism | Senators demand briefing on Syria decision | Turkey confirms strikes on Syrian border | White House says it won't cooperate on impeachment inquiry Pat Robertson 'absolutely appalled' by Trump's Syria announcement MORE (R-Kan.), David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanOvernight Defense: Trump hits Iranian central bank with sanctions | Trump meeting with Ukrainian leader at UN | Trump touts relationship with North Korea's Kim as 'best thing' for US Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan Republicans grumble over Trump shifting military funds to wall 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 TrumpGOP congressman slams Trump over report that U.S. bombed former anti-ISIS coalition headquarters US to restore 'targeted assistance' to Central American countries after migration deal Trump says lawmakers should censure Schiff 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 AlexanderGOP braces for impeachment brawl McConnell tightlipped as impeachment furor grows GOP senator: 'Inappropriate' to discuss opponents, but impeachment a 'mistake' MORE (Tenn.), $10,000; Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals Trump to award Medal of Freedom to former Attorney General Edwin Meese Trump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom MORE (Utah), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoGOP requests update on criminal referrals prompted by 2018 Kavanaugh probe Nearing finish line, fight for cannabis banking bill shifts to the Senate On The Money: Trump strikes trade deal with Japan on farm goods | GOP senator to meet Trump amid spending stalemate | House passes cannabis banking bill | Judge issues one-day pause on subpoena for Trump's tax returns MORE (Idaho), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziPoll: Majority of independent voters want GOP to retain control of Senate in 2020 Here are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Liz Cheney and Rand Paul extend war of words MORE (Wyo.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSenate Intel chair: Whistleblower hasn't agreed to testify before panel Juan Williams: Trump, the conspiracy theory president Blood cancer patients deserve equal access to the cure MORE (N.C.), James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump declares 'case closed' as text messages raise new questions Top House Democrat: Trump did 'on camera' what Romney warned about MORE (Okla.) and Sullivan, who have all given him $10,000; Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (Pa.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanTrump's GOP impeachment firewall holds strong 10 top Republicans who continue to deny the undeniable GOP braces for impeachment brawl MORE (Ohio), Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerLawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show Hillicon Valley: Trump official declines to testify on trade protections for tech | Senators call for better info-sharing on supply chain threats | Apple pulls app after Chinese pressure Key Democrat presses FTC over Facebook settlement's 'dangerous precedent' MORE (Miss.) and Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseHong Kong protesters trample, burn LeBron James jerseys in wake of comments This week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington Trump's GOP impeachment firewall holds strong MORE (Neb.), who all gave $5,000; and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottBlood cancer patients deserve equal access to the cure Rand Paul: 'We deserve to know' identity of Trump whistleblower Bottom Line MORE (S.C.), who donated $2,000, according to campaign finance records verified by the Cruz campaign.