Longtime Senate troublemaker Ted Cruz is trying to make nice with some of his establishment colleagues, with peace offerings where it counts most: their campaign war chests. Invitations sent to top Republicans and donors on Wednesday said Cruz is teaming up with fellow Texan and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn to host fundraisers in Houston and Dallas next month. The gatherings will benefit a coalition that’s more traditional than the tea party-backed lawmakers who are usually Cruz’s closest allies.
Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Chuck Grassley of Iowa are set to attend the events, both on Oct. 6. Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania will also benefit, though they aren’t scheduled to attend. Ayotte, in particular, has been an outspoken Cruz critic, questioning the partial government shutdown Cruz helped spark in 2013 and criticizing him during a flap over funding for Planned Parenthood that nearly caused another shutdown two years later.
The invitations ask attendees for donations of between $1,000 and $10,000. Cruz has refused to endorse Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump after a bitter presidential primary campaign. But the fundraisers suggest he’s willing to help Republicans beyond his conservative activist base stay in the Senate — despite railing against establishment leaders in both parties. David Polyansky, Cruz’s chief of staff, said Cruz will allow fellow Senate Republicans to tap an extensive data network Cruz built while running for president as part of a “50-state campaign.” That means potential contact with both traditional conservatives and a robust grassroots network that made Cruz a tea party hero.
Cruz plans to travel Texas in coming weeks and encourage Republican turnout in down-ballot races. He’s also likely to make visits nationally to help Republican senators in tight races, as he did for some GOP candidates in 2014. Polyansky said Cruz has consistently promised to help maintain the Republicans’ majority in the Senate, which could be in jeopardy, especially if Hillary Clinton defeats Trump at the top of the November ticket.
“Many in Washington want to focus on personalities and areas of past disagreement, but that’s not what this is about. It’s about him following through on his sincere desire and firm commitment to help his fellow Republican senators earn re-election,” Polyansky said in a phone interview Wednesday. “This goes well beyond happenings in Washington. This is about maintaining a Republican Senate majority.” Earlier this week, Cruz made a $100,000 donation to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, amid questions in a few GOP circles about whether he really was doing enough to help his colleagues.
That Cornyn and Cruz are holding joint fundraisers is a bit of a surprise. Last week, Cornyn told CNN he was “not going to get involved in any primary races, particularly with my colleagues in the Senate.” Cruz refused to endorse Cornyn’s 2014 election bid until after Cornyn had safely won that year’s Republican primary. Cruz was the most popular politician in Texas even before he won 10 states during the presidential primary.
But he was widely ridiculed for his Republican National Convention speech in Cleveland, when he refused to endorse Trump. Polls since have suggested that Cruz’s approval ratings have slipped back in his home state, where he is up for re-election in 2018 and could face a challenger in the Republican primary.