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

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzUp next in the culture wars: Adding women to the draft Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet 228 Republican lawmakers urge Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade 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 McConnellOvernight Health Care: Florida becomes epicenter of COVID-19 surge | NYC to require vaccination for indoor activities | Biden rebukes GOP governors for barring mask mandates McConnell warns Schumer cutting off debate quickly could stall infrastructure deal Top House Democrat says party would lose elections if they were held today: report 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 CornynMcConnell warns Schumer cutting off debate quickly could stall infrastructure deal GOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet MORE’s (Texas) leadership PAC, $10,000 from Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntMissouri Rep. Billy Long enters Senate GOP primary Graham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate New spotlight on secretaries of state as electoral battlegrounds MORE’s (R-Mo.) Rely on Your Beliefs Fund and $10,000 from Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Tracy Stone-Manning's confirmation treatment was simply unacceptable — and it must stop Former Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi dies after bicycle accident 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 McCainMeghan McCain to produce 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff' Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Meghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' 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 GrahamThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by AT&T - Simone wins bronze with altered beam routine The job of shielding journalists is not finished The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions 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 GardnerEx-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Biden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms 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 SullivanOvernight Defense: Police officer killed in violence outside Pentagon | Biden officials back repeal of Iraq War authorization | NSC pushed to oversee 'Havana Syndrome' response Graham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate Senate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior 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 TrumpFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries Missouri Rep. Billy Long enters Senate GOP primary Trump-backed Mike Carey wins GOP primary in Ohio special election 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 CrapoGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (Idaho), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziOn The Money: Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban | Trump attorney says he will fight release of tax returns McConnell warns Democrats against 'artificial timeline' for infrastructure deal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Crunch time for bipartisan plan; first Jan. 6 hearing today MORE (Wyo.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSeven-figure ad campaign urges GOP to support infrastructure bill Senate starts infrastructure debate amid 11th-hour drama The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (N.C.), James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense: Biden administration expands Afghan refugee program | Culture war comes for female draft registration | US launches third Somalia strike in recent weeks Up next in the culture wars: Adding women to the draft Gillibrand expects vote on military justice bill in fall 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 PortmanHillicon Valley: Senate report finds major cyber shortcomings in federal agencies | Gig firms seek Mass. ballot question to classify workers as contractors | Blizzard's president steps down after workplace protests Senate report finds major cybersecurity shortcomings among federal agencies The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions MORE (Ohio), Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal Here's evidence the Senate confirmation process is broken Commerce office used racial profiling operating as 'rogue' police force: Senate report MORE (Miss.) and Ben SasseBen SasseWhite House cyber chief backs new federal bureau to track threats Sasse calls China's Xi a 'coward' after Apple Daily arrest Defunct newspaper's senior editor arrested in Hong Kong MORE (Neb.), who all gave $5,000; and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTrump helps raise million in first six months of 2021 Senate passes bill to award Congressional Gold Medal to first Black NHL player Scott: 'There is hope' for police reform bill MORE (S.C.), who donated $2,000, according to campaign finance records verified by the Cruz campaign.