Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has spent much of his presidential campaign railing against the so-called “Washington cartel” and positioning himself as the candidate that can cut through Beltway politics if elected.
Now with Cruz being viewed as the clear second choice to Donald Trump following a series of primary wins, the Texas senator may need to start buddying up to his fellow lawmakers if he hopes to win the Republican nomination.
The problem for Cruz is that he has never been good at making friends with his colleagues in the Senate.
Cruz earned the enmity of his fellow lawmakers soon after joining the Senate in 2013, when he filibustered the nomination of John O. Brennan as CIA director. A while later some of his colleagues called his plan to shut down the government over the effort to end funding for the Affordable Care Act the “dumbest idea” ever.
The firebrand lawmaker then seemed to abandon any hope of making peace with his fellow GOP senators when he accused his fellow Republican, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, last summer of lying to him over a deal to vote on reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank.
But now, with Trump threatening to run away with the Republican nomination and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio – the party’s assumed first choice – faltering on the campaign trail, it appears that both Cruz and the Republican establishment might have to form some kind of détente if they hope to derail Trump.
“I don’t think Trump is a Republican. I don’t think he’s a reliable conservative. Ted Cruz and I have a lot of differences but I do believe he’s a conservative, I do believe he’s a Republican,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said, according to the Washington Post. “Marco would be my preferred choice. I think he’s far more electable, but, you know, we’re gonna play the hand we’re dealt here.”
At the moment Graham is the only senator openly talking about the possibility of party coalescing around Cruz – in fact no senator has even endorsed their colleague from Texas – but there are rumblings of approval for Cruz and his style of politics.
“He’s come a long way the way he is, and I don’t think changing his personality is a requisite,” Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Rubio supporter, said of Cruz. “I think he’s got a tough, strong personality. A lot of people think that would be good for the presidency.”
Some GOP insiders, however, say that Cruz can’t top Trump on his own — a comment that Cruz has been touting on the stump as he tries to get Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich to drop out of the race.
Graham said that some type of a deal will need to be made following next Tuesday’s primaries in Florida and Ohio if they hope to stop Trump.
“Cruz and Rubio eventually need to combine forces,” Graham said. “I don’t know how they do it, but it would be good for the party if they could.”