Cruz Trip Tests Durability of Scandal, Memory of Voters | Washington, D.C. News


By WILL WEISSERT and STEVE PEOPLES, Related Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ted Cruz’s political profession already featured many shock twists earlier than a jaunt to Mexico this week introduced him a brand new degree of notoriety.

The Texas senator was as soon as the largest risk to Donald Trump capturing the 2016 presidential nomination. Throughout a very bitter stretch of that 12 months’s Republican major, Cruz known as Trump a “coward” and “pathological liar.” By final month, nevertheless, Cruz was one of Trump’s staunchest allies and a frontrunner within the former president’s baseless try to overturn the November election.

Such shifts are meant to maintain Cruz in a powerful place with the GOP base if he runs for the White Home once more in 2024. However they’ve additionally turned him into one of Washington’s most villainized figures, somebody keen to take any politically handy place if it retains his future ambitions alive.

Cruz is underneath additional assault for touring to Cancun whereas his constituents suffered by way of a lethal winter storm that left a whole lot of 1000’s with out energy and operating water. His clarification — that his daughters pushed for the getaway as a result of they had been out of college — was significantly panned.

The optics of the journey are hardly best. However the query is whether or not, three years earlier than he faces voters once more, the political fallout will final.

“Ted Cruz is feeling the primary post-Trump controversy,” mentioned New Hampshire-based Republican strategist Mike Biundo. “I don’t suppose anyone is aware of precisely what’s going to occur on this new actuality that we’re residing in.”

Earlier than Trump received to Washington, scandals, lies and generally even easy however main gaffes wrecked political careers.

Regardless of later successful a congressional seat, former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford will ceaselessly be remembered for fabricating a trek alongside the Appalachian Path, simply as former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner was undone by repeated sexting scandals and ex-Texas Gov. Rick Perry couldn’t stay down the talk stage second of forgetting the third of three federal businesses he’d promised to get rid of.

As soon as Trump was within the White Home, his outlandish antics attracted a lot consideration that one thing that merely regarded unhealthy, like a senator’s leaving on trip whereas his state was struggling, would not obtain a lot discover.

Cruz is now navigating how a lot harm management is required in a post-Trump political panorama.

He rushed dwelling on Thursday and instructed reporters the journey was “clearly a mistake.” However he made no public appearances on Friday, and his workplace did not reply questions on his schedule or what he was doing to assist Texans deal with the storm. His workplace merely launched a press release backing Gov. Greg Abbott’s request for federal help.

Nonetheless, Cruz continues to be the best-known chief within the nation’s largest crimson state, with a far larger nationwide profile than Abbott, who has additionally been talked about as a doable 2024 presidential contender, and Sen. John Cornyn, who coasted to reelection final 12 months by a extra comfy margin than Cruz, who narrowly edged Democrat Beto O’Rourke in 2018.

Alice Stewart, a GOP strategist and veteran of Cruz’s presidential marketing campaign, famous that the senator has years earlier than he’ll must run for reelection or president or each in 2024. That is quite a bit of time to place the Cancun journey “within the rearview mirror,” even when Cruz’s political opponents will proceed to trumpet it.

“Folks have come to tolerate much more throughout and after the period of Trump,” mentioned Stewart, who famous that whereas social media typically intensifies political scandals, it additionally tends to shorten their lifespans.

Rick Tyler additionally labored for Cruz’s 2016 marketing campaign however has often criticized the senator for kowtowing to Trump since then. He mentioned that “when Texas was down and out and embarrassed, frankly,” Cruz’s journey to the seashore was unforgivable: “There isn’t any method that is going to be forgotten.”

“Cruz could be very beatable,” Tyler mentioned of the senator’s reelection prospects, particularly if he tries once more for the White Home the identical 12 months. “He is received to determine. By doing one or the opposite, you threat dropping each.”

After all, Cruz has successfully used being one of Washington’s most detested figures to his benefit previously. He got here to Congress as a conservative rebel who infuriated each events — even prompting fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to as soon as joke that no senator would convict one of their very own for murdering Cruz within the chamber.

In 2016, Cruz received the Iowa caucuses and proved to have a strong nationwide base of help, establishing a tense major struggle that may final for months. At one level, Trump attacked the appears of Cruz’s spouse and baselessly urged that his father had a hand within the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Cruz lashed out at Trump in response and was later booed off the stage at that 12 months’s Republican Nationwide Conference for failing to endorse the New Yorker.

However within the 4 years since, Cruz remodeled into one of Trump’s greatest champions in Congress.

Amongst these near Cruz, there’s a sense that the senator damage himself politically this week however that he stays properly positioned for one more White Home bid ought to he choose to run once more. His workforce believes Cruz is the preferred potential 2024 candidate not named Trump amongst seemingly Republican major voters.

Cruz was a fundraising pressure for his Republican colleagues within the Home and Senate main as much as November’s election. And his personal fundraising has surged within the months since — together with after he stood towards the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory in early January. His small-dollar donor base, particularly, which was giant to start with, has grown dramatically, aides say.

Even amid requires Cruz to resign for his function in serving to encourage Trump supporters who staged a lethal revolt on the U.S. Capitol, Republicans in San Antonio organized a rally celebrating him as “brave.”

Cruz can be planning to attend subsequent week’s influential Conservative Political Motion Convention, the place he can additional ingratiate himself with the GOP’s most fervent activists, who aren’t prone to maintain Cancun towards him.

Cruz allies word that the second-place finisher within the earlier Republican major typically turns into the nominee within the subsequent election. However transferring ahead, there’s a sense internally that Cruz’s political power is straight linked to his relationship with Trump, whose emotions are tough to gauge.

Regina Thomson, a former Cruz loyalist who fought Trump’s nomination on the 2016 GOP conference, has since warmed to Trump. She mentioned that Cruz’s Cancun journey did not trouble her, however that finally, she and different conservative activists would seemingly comply with Trump’s lead.

“Should you would ask quite a bit of (Cruz’s former) grassroots supporters immediately, they’d say Trump did such job they’d like him to run once more,” Thomson mentioned. “And if Trump doesn’t run, I feel quite a bit of folks will look to him to see who he’s supporting.”

Peoples reported from New York.

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