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

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails The Memo: Like the dress or not, Ocasio-Cortez is driving the conversation again Ocasio-Cortez defends attendance of Met Gala amid GOP uproar 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 McConnellCEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' Capito grills EPA nominee on '#ResistCapitalism' tweet Hassan launches first ad of reelection bid focusing on veterans' issues 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 CornynDemocrats make case to Senate parliamentarian for 8 million green cards Democrats to make pitch Friday for pathway to citizenship in spending bill Without major changes, more Americans could be victims of online crime MORE’s (Texas) leadership PAC, $10,000 from Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP hopes spending traps derail Biden agenda A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Senate passes infrastructure bill, budget resolution; Cuomo resigns MORE’s (R-Mo.) Rely on Your Beliefs Fund and $10,000 from Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoLobbying world A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate The Hill's Sustainability Report: Seawalls protect some communities — at the expense of others 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 McCain20 years after 9/11, US foreign policy still struggles for balance What the chaos in Afghanistan can remind us about the importance of protecting democracy at home 'The View' plans series of conservative women as temporary McCain replacements MORE (R-Ariz.) at the time called the shutdown a “fool’s errand,” while Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  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 GrahamOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right GOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization 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 GardnerProtecting the outdoors: Three cheers for America's best idea Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Biden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program 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 RobertsBob Dole, Pat Roberts endorse Kansas AG Derek Schmidt for governor Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain MORE (R-Kan.), David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization More Republicans call on Biden to designate Taliban as terrorist group Overnight Energy: Judge blocks permits for Alaska oil project 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 TrumpFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right 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 AlexanderLamar AlexanderAuthorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate The Republicans' deep dive into nativism Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain MORE (Tenn.), $10,000; Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchCongress, stop holding 'Dreamers' hostage Drug prices are declining amid inflation fears The national action imperative to achieve 30 by 30 MORE (Utah), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoThe Energy Sector Innovation Credit Act is an industry game-changer The 19 GOP senators who voted for the T infrastructure bill Wyden asks White House for details on jet fuel shortage amid wildfire season MORE (Idaho), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziWhat Republicans should demand in exchange for raising the debt ceiling Senate votes to end debate on T infrastructure bill The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by AT&T - Biden celebrates monstrous jobs report MORE (Wyo.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrNC Republican primary key test of Trump's sway The 19 GOP senators who voted for the T infrastructure bill Senate votes to end debate on T infrastructure bill MORE (N.C.), James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeTop Republican: General told senators he opposed Afghanistan withdrawal Austin, Milley to testify on Afghanistan withdrawal The Pentagon budget is already out of control: Some in Congress want to make it worse MORE (Okla.) and Sullivan, who have all given him $10,000; Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyBlack women look to build upon gains in coming elections Watch live: GOP senators present new infrastructure proposal Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (Pa.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanOvernight On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — GOP senator: It's 'foolish' to buy Treasury bonds Senate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken McConnell: Republicans 'united in opposition to raising the debt ceiling' MORE (Ohio), Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerTop Republican: General told senators he opposed Afghanistan withdrawal NY Democrat tests positive for COVID-19 in latest House breakthrough case Florida Democrat becomes latest breakthrough COVID-19 case in House MORE (Miss.) and Ben SasseBen SassePresident of newly recognized union for adult performers boosts membership Romney blasts Biden over those left in Afghanistan: 'Bring them home' Progressives breathe sigh of relief after Afghan withdrawal MORE (Neb.), who all gave $5,000; and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottDOJ announces agencywide limits on chokeholds and no-knock entries Lobbying world As Biden falters, a two-man race for the 2024 GOP nomination begins to take shape MORE (S.C.), who donated $2,000, according to campaign finance records verified by the Cruz campaign.