WASHINGTON – Sen. Ted Cruz, whose friction with GOP leaders has bordered on open warfare, has effectively taken a leave of absence from his leadership post at the party’s Senate campaign arm.
The committee’s mission is to maximize the ranks of Republicans in the Senate – in part by helping to reelect Republican incumbents, a goal that Cruz has made clear he will not abide.
“At this point, I disagree with the approach they’ve taken, and so I don’t intend to facilitate that approach,” Cruz told National Journal.
Even so, he won’t resign as vice chairman at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Asked why, he said it’s because he still wants to see Republicans win in November – he just doesn’t agree with taking sides in contested primaries, even those involving incumbents.
“I support the ultimate objective of helping elect Republicans in general elections,” he told the magazine.
Cruz was pointedly neutral in last week’s primary involving fellow Texas Sen. John Cornyn. (Cornyn won the 8-way race with just shy of 60 percent.) He has complained publicly and repeatedly about “Republican leadership” – a label that includes Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Cornyn, the deputy leader.
And he has remained allied with groups such as The Madison Project and Senate Conservatives Fund that are actively trying to oust McConnell and some other GOP senators in primaries.
“When I signed on to be vice chairman of the NRSC, I made it very explicit that I don’t believe the NRSC should be involved in primaries, that its appropriate role is to help elect Republicans in general elections,” Cruz told National Journal. “Subsequent to that time, the NRSC made a different decision, to get actively involved in primaries. I don’t agree with that.”
There’s an old saying in politics about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. That was probably what McConnell had in mind when he asked Cruz in late 2012, newly elected and not yet sworn in, to serve as NRSC vice chairman and, effectively, its liaison to tea partiers.
The daylight is getting wider.
Rand Paul is endorsing McConnell, and defending Dole, McCain, and Romney, and cutting ads with American Crossroads to elect the establishment congressman from FL13. Ted Cruz doesn't want to dirty his hands while electing Republicans. Eventually Paul will be denounced by talk radio as a GOPe operative and Cruz will quit the GOP like Buchanan, Keyes, and Tancredo. The Tea Party is over.