Ted Cruz again refuses to back John Cornyn
By: Katie Glueck
September 27, 2013 09:30 PM EDT
AUSTIN, Texas — Sen. Ted Cruz refused point-blank to endorse his Texas Republican colleague Sen. John Cornyn in his upcoming reelection bid at an event here Friday.
“I think it is very likely I’m going to stay out of all incumbent runs,” Cruz responded, when posed with an endorsement question at the annual Texas Tribune festival.
Moderator Evan Smith, the head of the Texas Tribune, said that the junior Texas Republican’s failure to endorse Cornyn had inspired tea party activists to call for Cornyn’s head.
“You could put a stop to this,” Smith said of grassroots unrest. “Endorse him right now. Will you do it?”
Cruz’s rebuttal brought sighs and groans from the crowd, which in the blue-hued state capital represented a more liberal section of his home turf.
”Texans are perfectly capable of assessing every elected official, assessing our record,” Cruz said when asked about their relationship, speaking from Washington via a live-satellite link. “I like and respect John Cornyn, and I’m honored to serve with him.”
Their dynamic came under extra scrutiny this week, when Cornyn and Cruz parted ways over the best approach on a spending bill, in which Obamacare was a key sticking point.
Cruz pointed to his own Senate primary contest, nodding to the “thousands upon thousands of grassroots activists” who propelled his campaign to victory.
“You’d mentioned a minute ago, the typical thing in Washington to do would be to endorse every Republican,” he said. “And frankly, I feel I owe a commitment to the men and women all across Texas. I think every incumbent owes it to the grassroots activists of their state to make the case why he or she should be reelected.”
He added, “If I went to Washington and became just another Washington politician who immediately endorses every incumbent, I think I’d be breaking faith with the men and women who worked very hard to elect me.”
But he bristled at the suggestion that he personally opposes Cornyn.
“That’s not remotely the case,” he said.
Cruz has also declined to endorse Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in his primary contest. He then dismissed the idea that he was planning to endorse McConnell’s primary challenger, businessman Matt Bevin, who has been embraced by the tea party, insisting that he’s planning to stay out of such contests.
The Texas senator’s remote appearance capped a week of intense national scrutiny of Cruz, following his 21-hour talk-a-thon designed to hold up movement on the spending bill.
He met a mostly skeptical audience here, as evidenced by the mutterings he generated after saying a government shutdown would only occur at the behest of President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). But he also earned a smattering of applause as he outlined his disagreements with Obamacare.
He spoke to the crowd hours after a Public Policy Poll indicated he leads the 2016 GOP presidential field — another issue that generated audience scoffing.
“I don’t put a whole lot of stock in polls,” Cruz said, when asked whether he would run for president. “I gotta tell ya, my hands are full with the U.S. Senate and what we’re doing right now.”
But he didn’t shy away from answering an audience question about whether his message was too conservative for the rest of the country. He suggested that outside of Washington, his views on issues like spending and Obamacare are mainstream.
“My focus, my top priority every day since I have been elected, has been working for economic growth, restoring economic growth,” he said, adding, “Economic growth, restoring opportunity, I think that is the essence of mainstream American values. The problem is, Washington has stopped listening to common-sense American values.”
He noted that of the last four elections, Republicans only did well when the party “didn’t paint in pale pastels; we instead drew a clear, positive, optimistic message.”
“I think the key to electoral victory is painting a different path than the path we’re on,” he said. “Because the path we’re on isn’t working.”