Cruz re­pays Cornyn’s en­dorse­ment in video with him Once at odds on tac­tics, pair team up well in ad­vance of ’20 elec­tions

The Dallas Morning News - - News - By TODD J. GILL­MAN Wash­ing­ton Bureau tgill­[email protected]­las­ Twit­ter: @tod­dg­ill­man

WASH­ING­TON — The al­liance be­tween Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz drew tighter Fri­day as Cruz is­sued an early and en­thu­si­as­tic en­dorse­ment, warn­ing that with his nar­row re­elec­tion a month ago, Democrats are em­bold­ened in their quest to re­claim Texas.

“John and I have made a very strong team here in Wash­ing­ton, and I hope that we can keep work­ing to­gether so that to­gether we can up­hold the prin­ci­ples that have long em­bod­ied the Texas can­do spirit,” Cruz says in a two­minute video re­leased by the sen­a­tors’ cam­paigns.

Cornyn will seek a fourth sixyear term in 2020, and ex­plicit sup­port from a col­league more closely aligned with the tea party and the Trump base would be help­ful in so­lid­i­fy­ing Re­pub­li­can sup­port.

The sen­a­tors, both con­ser­va­tives, share much the same agenda.

But in Cruz’s early years in the Se­nate, they were of­ten at odds on leg­isla­tive and po­lit­i­cal tac­tics, as Cruz en­cour­aged in­sur­gent tea party­style can­di­dates and bucked Cornyn and oth­ers in the party’s lead­er­ship.

They kept their dis­tance in elec­tions un­til this year, when Cornyn threw his weight be­hind his col­league in what turned out to be a nail­biter against U.S. Rep. Beto O’rourke of El Paso.

Cruz pre­vailed with less than 51 per­cent of the vote, the worst show­ing for Repub­li­cans in de­ cades in a state where Democrats haven’t won a statewide race since 1994.

Sup­port his­tory

As a can­di­date for the Se­nate in 2012, Cruz re­fused to say if he would sup­port Cornyn for re­elec­tion to his post as ma­jor­ity whip, the party’s No. 2 lead­er­ship job. He would wait to see how many “con­sti­tu­tional con­ser­va­tives” got elected, he told The Dal­las Morn­ing News.

In Au­gust 2013, Cruz raised more eye­brows when he point­edly re­fused to en­dorse Cornyn for re­elec­tion the next year. After seven months in of­fice, he was al­ready test­ing the wa­ters in New Hamp­shire for a pres­i­den­tial run, and said he would re­main neu­tral.

Cruz is­sued an en­dorse­ment only after Cornyn won his pri­ mary the fol­low­ing March — and even then, he wouldn’t say whom he’d voted for.

In 2015 and 2016, Cornyn stayed neu­tral in the pres­i­den­tial pri­maries, in which Cruz ended up as run­ner­up to Don­ald Trump.

With Texas trend­ing pur­ple, the im­pe­tus for a mu­tual em­brace has grown stronger.

“Ted and I fight shoul­der to shoul­der to make the coun­try look more like Texas. That’s why it was crit­i­cal he came out on top after Democrats put a tar­get on his back and why I cam­paigned for him across our state,” Cornyn says in the video, in which the sen­a­tors sit side by side look­ing into the cam­era. “I’m proud to have Ted’s sup­port, but we still have a lot of work to do.”

Cornyn’s prospects in 2020 are un­clear.

It’s a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion year, which tends to bring out more vot­ers, though turnout in the midterms was high as Democrats ral­lied to O’rourke, ea­ger to take down Cruz and also to ex­press their dis­may with Trump.

It’s likely O’rourke would be the most for­mi­da­ble chal­lenger if he were to mount a sec­ond run for the Se­nate.

He raised more than $80 mil­lion in his bid to un­seat Cruz and is eye­ing a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. Democrats around the coun­try are urg­ing him in that di­rec­tion, won­der­ing how far he could go with his charis­matic and en­er­getic cam­paign style, pro­gres­sive agenda and un­matched fundrais­ing prow­ess.

O’rourke fac­tor?

The dy­namic of a Cornyn­ O’rourke con­test would be far dif­fer­ent from the CruzO’rourke match­up.

Cruz in­spires much stronger sen­ti­ments than Cornyn on both sides — fierce de­vo­tion from tea partiers and con­ser­va­tive pop­ulists, and loathing from oth­ers who find his views or his com­bat­ive ap­proach dis­taste­ful.

Cornyn has a solid con­ser­va­tive record but projects a more af­fa­ble per­son­al­ity, which would of­fer a fuzzier con­trast and tougher tar­get for O’rourke. While the left finds his views no less palat­able, he’s not a light­ning rod, ei­ther.

Aides for both sen­a­tors said the en­dorse­ment was planned a few weeks ago. In the video, Cruz is sport­ing the beard he grew after the elec­tion.

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