Ted Cruz is supposed to be the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s bridge to the Tea Party. Lately though, it seems like he’s setting that bridge on fire.
Officially, Cruz is the vice chairman of the NRSC but his involvement in recent TV ads by tea party- aligned groups like Senate Conservatives Fund, who have targeted Republicans over the summer, appears to put him at odds with the campaign committee’s practice of supporting incumbent Senators.
“The Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse and we need Congress to stand up and defund Obamacare now,” Cruz says in the ad posted on the Senate Conservatives Fund’s website.
While Cruz doesn’t name names in the spot, directly below the ad is a “Senate Republican Whip List” detailing the position each Republican Senator has or has not taken on the defund issue and how to contact them.
SCF is running radio ads targeting GOP incumbents including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is expected to have a tough re-election fight and already has a primary challenger. Cruz has also refused to personally endorse Texas Sen. John Cornyn or any incumbent Senators for re-election.
A Cruz spokeswoman dismissed any contradiction between his role at the NRSC and his work for SCF. “We don’t see a conflict — he’s not likely to get involved in primaries, but will vehemently defend Republicans in 2014 general elections,” Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said. “Particular organizations that may participate in supporting elections will make their own decisions.”
Matt Hoskins, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund, said they are working “side by side” but independently from Cruz.
“We’re proud to work side-by-side with him in the effort to stop Obamacare, but SCF makes its own independent decisions regarding candidate endorsements,” Hoskins said. “We expect that Senator Cruz will make his own decisions about whether to get involved in primaries.”
In addition to his work with the Senate Conservatives Fund, Cruz has attended several town halls sponsored by Heritage Action, the lobbying arm of the Heritage Foundation. That group is also targeting Republicans on Obamacare and several other issues.
In many ways, Cruz’s alliance with conservatives groups makes sense. When the Republican establishment was backing his 2012 primary opponent, Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, the Senate Conservatives Fund and several other organizations like them put their money on Cruz.
Cruz's strategy also aligns with the apparent shift among some conservative-minded legislators from working with fellow Senators to accomplish legislative and political goals to courting outside groups who may well be better to harness the discontent of the vocal grassroots community throughout the country.
What does the establishment say about this? Not much at this point. They need Cruz with them and certainly don’t want him rallying directly against them. “Ted Cruz is a tireless fighter and strong national voice for conservative ideas and we’re proud to have him fighting on behalf of the NRSC,” said Brad Dayspring, spokesman for the NRSC.