Cruz: Dear RINO Senators, I Won’t Help Candidates Primary You

Daniel Doherty

10/31/2013 11:00:00 AM - Daniel Doherty

Politico describes this kind gesture as “an olive branch.” I agree. Cruz, whose fiery brand of conservatism continually draws the enmity and wrath of the GOP establishment, has publicly pledged he will not help conservative candidates oust his more squishy, Republican colleagues.

The “surrender caucus” can finally breathe a sigh of relief. For now:

Extending an olive branch to GOP senators, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is privately making it clear he won’t engage in the Senate Conservatives Fund’s hardball tactics to defeat his colleagues in their primary races.

At a closed-door lunch meeting of Senate Republicans Wednesday, the freshman conservative told his colleagues that he would not intervene in their 2014 primary fights or fundraise for the controversial outside group. Cruz added that the SCF’s decision to try to defeat sitting GOP senators in their primaries was its alone, according to several people familiar with the session.

According to one source familiar with the meeting in the Senate’s Mansfield Room, Cruz noted that Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky wouldn’t fundraise for the group and promised that his image would be removed from its materials. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Cruz that Paul took such an action six months ago, but he thanked

The comments illustrate the challenges facing Cruz as he builds his national profile as a conservative firebrand unafraid to take on his party — but who is also forced to work, lunch and gather with his fellow GOP senators during weeks when Congress is in session. Cruz, a prospective 2016 presidential candidate, became a pariah with his GOP Senate colleagues during the 16-day government shutdown when he aligned himself closely with the SCF and slammed his GOP colleagues as timid Washington insiders afraid to defund Obamacare.

I imagine the biggest beneficiary of Cruz’s benevolence would be Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. He’s already wrapped up Senator Rand Paul’s endorsement, but if Cruz backed his Tea Party challenger, Matt Bevin, the contours of the race could change dramatically and the outcome might be different. Cruz, meanwhile, is a fundraising machine, and his enhanced stature after “filibustering” Obamacare on the Senate floor for more than 20 hours gives him, at the very least, greater political clout and influence among conservative activists.

And yet Cruz has said publicly that if Republicans had stayed united during the defund Obamacare battle “the outcome…would have been very, very different.” Why, then, keep the squishes around after 2014? Wouldn’t he want to elect more conservatives? After all, he'll need them for the fights ahead. Ah:

I’d be surprised if Senator Cruz didn’t run for president in 2016. And if he harbors any hopes of winning, he’s going to need the establishment's help. His announcement, then, seems like a good way to get that conversation started.