What Ted Cruz’s non-endorsement of John Cornyn should tell you

August 26, 2013

Friday night in New Hampshire, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz made clear that he has no plans to endorse his Lone Star State colleague John Cornyn for re-election in 2014.


Ted Cruz.

“I think it is likely that I am going to stay out of incumbent primaries across the country, either supporting incumbents or opposing incumbents,” Cruz said.

That simple statement is remarkably telling when it comes to what Cruz sees in his political future.

Start with the fact that Cruz is a vice chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, an organization dedicated to re-electing incumbents as its first duty. Then consider that not only is Cornyn a fellow Texas Republican but also stayed studiously neutral in Cruz's 2012 primary fight against establishment favorite Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. And, finally, recall that Cornyn ranked as the second most conservative Republican in 2012, according to the National Journal vote ratings.

Add it all up and the common sense thing for Cruz to have told reporters when asked about Cornyn is: "John's a good man and a strong conservative and I am supporting him."

Cruz didn't do that. (Although his leadership PAC did donate to Cornyn.) And there's a reason why. Texan and former National Republican Campaign Committee operative Ken Spain hit the nail on the head in a Twitter conversation with former Senate aide Brian Walsh. Spain tweeted:

Correct. Cruz's unwillingness to endorse Cornyn is about one person: Cruz.  The freshman Senator has made clear during his brief time in the Senate that he has little interest in going along to get along or any desire to climb the leadership ladder.  In case you missed that point, Cruz's trip to Iowa last weekend and to New Hampshire this past Friday -- when he made the Cornyn comments -- are an obvious tell: Cruz wants to run for president in 2016.

And, in order to best position himself as a true outsider in that race -- a posture that has drawn him raucously positive receptions in his early presidential state tour thus far -- Cruz and his political people know that he has to stay away from endorsing any incumbents, especially ones like Cornyn who are members of the party leadership.

No one should be surprised that politicians are acting political. It's what they do, after all. But Cruz's non-endorsement of Cornyn tells you that the freshman senator's gaze is well beyond the Senate.

Fixbits: 

A U.S. official said there is "very little doubt" the Syrian government launched a chemical weapons attack against civilians.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) pushed for U.S. action in Syria.

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner resigned on Friday. The U-T San Diego editorial board was not impressed with his remarks.

Republican Carl DeMaio is thinking about running to replace Filner. He lost to Filner in a competitive 2012 race and is currently challenging Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), a top target of Republicans.

President Obama said "law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years."

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said Martin Luther King Jr. asked him to tone down the speech he delivered at the March on Washington.

Lewis also challenged listeners to push back against the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a key part of the Voting Rights Act. He was speaking at a Saturday event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Asked about comments from some Republicans about impeaching Obama, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) said, "I reject that kind of talk."

Former secretary of state Colin Powell said the verdict in George Zimmerman's trial "will be seen as a questionable judgment on the part of the judicial system down there."

The New York Times editorial board endorsed City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in the Democratic primary for mayor of New York, and former MTA chairman Joseph Lhota in the GOP primary.

EMILY's List will endorse Michelle Nunn (D) in the Georgia Senate race.

Must-reads: 

"The Clintons launch a new campaign — for the foundation that bears their name" -- Philip Rucker and Tom Hamburger, Washington Post

"After six budget showdowns, big government is mostly unchanged" - David A. Farenthold, Washington Post

"Obama’s Syria problem takes center stage" -- Reid Epstein, Politico

"Cruz speaks volumes with his silence on Senate GOP colleagues’ primary races" -- Sean Sullivan, Washington Post

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Chris Cillizza · August 25, 2013