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Are voters going to remember? Cruz trip checks longevity of scandal



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Are voters going to remember? Cruz trip checks longevity of scandal


There were already several surprise turns in Ted Cruz’s political career before a trip to Mexico this week gave him a new degree of notoriety.

Formerly the greatest challenge to Donald Trump, the Texas senator won the 2016 presidential nomination. Cruz called Trump a “coward” and “pathological liar” during a particularly bitter stretch of the Republican primary of that year. Last month, however, Cruz was one of Trump’s most staunch allies and a leader in the former president’s baseless attempt to overturn the November election.

If he runs for the White House again in 2024, such shifts are intended to hold Cruz in a good spot with the GOP foundation. But they also made him into one of the most villainized characters in Washington, someone willing to take any role that is politically convenient if it keeps his potential aspirations alive.

As his constituents suffered from a deadly winter storm that left hundreds of thousands without electricity and drinking water, Cruz is under more assault for travelling to Cancun. He was especially panned by his explanation that his daughters pushed for the getaway because they were out of school.

Hardly ideal are the optics of the ride. But the question is whether the political fallout will last three years before he faces voters again.

“The first post-Trump controversy is being felt by Ted Cruz,” said Republican strategist Mike Biundo, based in New Hampshire. “I don’t think anyone knows exactly what’s going to happen in this new reality in which we live.”

Scandals, lies and sometimes even basic but serious gaffes wrecked political careers before Trump got to Washington.

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford will forever be remembered for making a trek along the Appalachian Trail, despite later winning a Congressional seat, just as former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner was undone by repeated sexting scandals and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was unable to live down the debate stage moment to forget the third of three federal agencies he had promised to eliminate.

His outlandish antics attracted so much attention while Trump was in the White House that anything that actually looked terrible, such as a senator going for vacation when his state was struggling, did not get much interest.

Cruz is now exploring how much damage control in a post-Trump political environment is needed.

On Thursday, he hurried home and told reporters that the trip was “clearly an error.” But on Friday, he made no public appearances, and his office did not answer questions about his schedule or what he was doing to help Texans cope with the storm. His office simply issued a declaration backing the request for federal assistance from Gov. Greg Abbott.

Currently, Cruz is still the best-known leader in the largest red state in the world, with a far higher national profile than Abbott, who was also named as a potential presidential candidate for 2024, and Sen. John Cornyn, who coasted by a more comfortable margin to reelection last year than Cruz, who narrowly edged Democrat Beto O’Rourke in 2018.

The senator has years until he will have to run for reelection or president or both in 2024, Alice Stewart, a GOP strategist and veteran of Cruz’s presidential campaign, noted. That’s a lot of time to put the Cancun ride “in the rearview mirror,” even though it continues to trumpet Cruz’s political opponents.

“During and after the era of Trump, people have come to tolerate much more,” said Stewart, who observed that although social media also intensifies political controversies, it often appears to shorten their lifespans.

Rick Tyler also worked for the 2016 campaign of Cruz, but since then he has repeatedly attacked the senator for kowtowing to Trump. He said that Cruz’s trip to the beach “when Texas was down and out and embarrassed, frankly,” was unforgivable: “There’s no way this will be forgotten.”

Cruz is very beatable,” Tyler said of the prospects of the Senator’s reelection, particularly if that same year he tries again for the White House.” “He must decide. You threaten the failure of both by doing one or the other.

Of course, in the past, Cruz has successfully used being one of the most detested figures in Washington to his benefit. As a conservative rebel who infuriated both sides, he came to Congress, also leading fellow South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham to once joke that no senator would punish one of his own for murdering Cruz in the house.

Cruz won the caucuses in Iowa in 2016 and proved to have a strong national support base, setting up a tense primary battle that would last for months. At one point, Trump criticised Cruz’s wife’s appearance and baselessly suggested that his father had a hand in John F. Kennedy’s assassination. In reaction, Cruz lashed out at Trump and was later booed off the stage at the Republican National Convention that year for failing to support the New Yorker.

But in the four years since then, Cruz has been one of Trump’s greatest Congressional champions.

There is a feeling among those close to Cruz that the senator damaged himself politically this week, but that if he decides to run again, he remains well placed for another White House campaign. His team claims that Cruz is among likely Republican primary voters, the most successful prospective 2024 candidate not named Trump.

For his Republican colleagues in the House and Senate leading up to November’s election, Cruz was a fundraising force. And in the months since, including after he opposed the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory in early January, his own fundraising has soared. In particular, his small-dollar donor base, which was broad to start with, has risen dramatically, aides claim.

Even in the midst of calls for Cruz to resign for his role in supporting Trump supporters who staged a deadly U.S. rebellion. In San Antonio, Capitol Republicans organised a rally honouring him as “courageous.”

Cruz is also planning to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference next week, where he will further embrace the most fervent activists of the GOP, who are unlikely to hold Cancun against him.

Cruz allies remember that the second-place finisher also becomes the candidate in the next election in the previous Republican primary. But going forward, there is an internal feeling that the political power of Cruz is directly related to his friendship with Trump, whose emotions are hard to gauge.

Since then, Trump has been warmed by Regina Thomson, a former Cruz loyalist who campaigned for Trump’s nomination at the 2016 GOP convention. She said Cruz’s trip to Cancun did not concern her, but that she and other conservative activists would possibly follow Trump’s lead in the end.

Thomson said, “If you were to ask a lot of (Cruz’s former) grassroots supporters today, they would say that Trump did such a good job that they would like him to run again.” “And if Trump doesn’t run, I think he’s going to be looked at by a lot of people to see who he is supporting.”

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