Sen. Ted Cruz wants you to know he’s stumping, that he’s on the campaign trail, that he’s frantically sought after.
“Over the last the last six weeks, I have been on the road nonstop, traveling the country, working to turn out conservatives to vote on Tuesday,” Cruz told The Daily Beast.
This is how potential 2016 presidential candidates are jockeying for position in the days before the midterms: with a schedule brag. The senator was at the airport in Orlando, waiting to hop a flight home to Texas so he could take his daughters trick-or-treating. The next morning he was scheduled to leave his house at 4:30 a.m. to campaign in Alaska.
But even while on the run, he wanted to clear the air. He wanted to push back. One Bloomberg writer had argued that the relatively small number of events Cruz held in states with competitive races showed that the senator was isolated, that he had only a “part-time campaign role” in the Republican Party. And The Hill argued that Cruz was “sidelined” in this midterm election cycle.
If he were isolated, Cruz shot back, would he have been able to raise or spend more than $1.6 million supporting Republican candidates this cycle?
“It’s not surprising to see folks in Washington throwing rocks. My focus is on winning Senate elections, retaking the Senate, and retiring Harry Reid,” Cruz said. “Others have chosen to launch harsh and personal criticism. I have not reciprocated, and I don’t intend to.”
Since September, Cruz’s office said, he has been to some 40 fundraisers, rallies, and speeches—about half in Texas and half out of state. Over the past year, the Tea Party favorite has attended events for GOP groups or candidates in the crucial primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida, and South Carolina.
The Texas senator is hardly the only Republican bragging about how popular he is. These are the first salvos of the 2016 presidential election: candidates trying to one-up one another by pointing out how prominent and celebrated they are, how many campaign rallies they’ve anchored, and how many speeches they’ve delivered.
For likely presidential candidate Rand Paul, the schedule brag came in the form of an article on the conservative Breitbart.com at the end of October: “Sen. Rand Paul is in demand,” wrote the website’s Matthew Boyle, pointing out that the Kentucky senator has been in 30 states in the last 12 months, campaigning on behalf of other Republican candidates.
Sen. Marco Rubio’s schedule-brag story came from The Hill, which noted the Florida Republican’s summer and fall events in Illinois, South Carolina, New York, Texas, Florida, North Dakota, New Hampshire, and Iowa.
From Cruz’s travel schedule, it’s clear the Texas senator believes it’s all about that base.
Rallies to whip up the party faithful have taken him through Oklahoma (for T.W. Shannon), Nebraska (for Ben Sasse and Pete Ricketts), Kansas (for Pat Roberts), and Georgia (for David Perdue and Nathan Deal).
Cruz has held a conference call to turn out voters for Iowa’s Joni Ernst, Arkansas’s Tom Cotton, and Nebraska’s Sasse, the Texas senator’s office said. And there’s the October fundraiser he held in Houston for Cotton, Ernst, Alaska’s Dan Sullivan, and Nebraska’s Mike McFadden.
“The most critical element in 2014 is going to be turnout. If conservatives show up to vote, we’ll retake the Senate,” Cruz contends. (“Contend” is a very Cruzian word, and “I would contend” a favorite phrase.)
The criticism of Cruz as “isolated” ignores his primordial electoral DNA: From the start, he was billed not as a compromising coalition builder but as a Tea Party firebrand who excites the conservative base.
So this cycle he’s played that role: the senator best suited for tossing out red meat.
He put his name on fundraising pitches from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee, to encourage hardline conservatives to donate. And he’s contributed more than $69,000 from campaign and PAC funds to support state and federal Republican candidates directly. That’s not counting the $250,000 in funds he’s transferred to the NRSC to support Republican Senate nominees this cycle.
But what is missing from the more than 40 fundraisers Cruz has attended for GOP groups or candidates and the 42 speaking engagements this year are events that show he’s reaching out beyond the base.
The senator dismisses such events, saying he’d rather focus on expanding opportunity broadly and that he’s done work with Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) on sentencing reform.
“For every policy issue we address, I focus on how it would impact someone like my father, who 57 years ago came from Cuba with nothing, was imprisoned after being tortured, and washed dishes making 50 cents an hour,” Cruz said.