They were the words of a presidential candidate who had enough of the taunts and the insults.
‘This man is a pathological liar. He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth…The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist — a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen.’
‘This man’ was none other than Donald Trump. And the person doing the ranting was none other than Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas who at the time was engaged in a nasty, divisive, and childish Republican presidential primary contest with the New York billionaire celebrity.
How times have changed.
Fast-forward 27 months, and Ted Cruz is now practically begging now-President Donald Trump to come to Texas and campaign for him. For a person who prides himself on sticking with his moral principles and who has a habit of preaching from a soapbox with an air of superiority around him, the transition from Trump rival to Trump loyalist in such a short period of time must be a quandry of the conscience.
The one-term senator, however, desperately wants to hang on to his seat this November. So he is doing everything he possibly can – including cozying up to the very Republican political establishment that was once his favourite punching bag on and off Senate floor – to save his political career. A loss in November against Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is sweeping every single one of Texas’ 254 counties like a tornado, would be the biggest upsets in American politics since a Democrat named Doug Jones won a Senate seat in Alabama.
Texas is supposed to be the conservative bastion of America. Residents of the state haven’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1988. It’s been over forty years since Texas was blue on the presidential map. The last time a Democrat held the governor’s mansion was in the early 1990s. The Texas congressional delegation is dominated by the GOP, both US Senators are Republicans, and Republicans dominate the Texas Legislature.
O’Rourke, however, seems to be a different kind of Texas Democrat, someone who has an enormous talent for raising ($23.3 million raised so far, and that’s without PAC money) and a quality of excitement to him that reminds reporters on the beat of Barack Obama in 2007. O’Rourke’s campaign is all about bringing Americans together regardless of whether one happens to be a Trump supporter or an unabashed liberal. The three-term congressman from El Paso has star power with the national media, with publications like the New York Times, TIME magazine, and Vanity Fair devoting features to him as the next great hope of the Democratic Party. Just as interesting is that, despite a prior DWI incident in the late 1990s and his progressive ideas (no border wall, pro-gun control, pro-kneeling during the National Anthem, and ‘universal, guaranteed, high-quality health care for all’), O’Rourke is only four points behind Cruz in the polls.
Ted Cruz is nervous about conservative complacency, reminding his fellow Republicans that they cannot risk staying home in November and handing a valuable Senate seat to Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and the Hollywood liberals. Cruz’s worry is justified because his campaign is flailing, his likeability numbers are always an issue, and he doesn’t inspire crowds like his Democratic challenger does. O’Rourke talks about healing America and treating one another like human beings. Ted Cruz tends to go negative, talking about how O’Rourke doesn’t represent Texas values and would be a pawn in Chuck Schumer’s lap.
What may inspire Texas Republicans is Donald Trump. At least that’s what Cruz is banking on. For someone in his forties with unlimited ambition who will almost certainly run for president again, losing to a liberal Democrat in ruby-red Texas would be a political embarrassment. It’s all-hands-on-deck, even if it means reaching out to a former rival who humiliated your wife in public or called your father an accessory to President John Kennedy’s murder.