Ted Cruz mentioned Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) five times at the Jan. 28 GOP debate. And plenty of times before that, too. (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

Ted Cruz just can't stop name-dropping Jeff Sessions.

By our count, Cruz said the words "Jeff Sessions" five times at Thursday's GOP debate in Des Moines. He also did it twice at the Jan. 14 debate in Charleston, S.C. Oh yeah, and once at the CNN debates in Simi Valley, Calif., and in Las Vegas. And each time, it probably left a few viewers wondering, "Who the heck is this Jeff Sessions guy?"

Cruz and Sessions (R-Ala.) are among the most conservative members of the Senate and have repeatedly and publicly praised each other -- especially when it comes to their mutual resistance to comprehensive immigration reform. Both senators vocally opposed the 2013 "Gang of Eight" bill, which would have provided a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the United States. Sessions later gave Cruz effusive praise, saying, "Without the vigorous opposition of Ted Cruz, this bill likely would have passed."

Cruz isn't just bringing up Sessions's name as a "thank you" for that praise. The Texas senator wants to be linked to Sessions as strongly as he can be. Sessions is the ranking Republican in the Senate Judiciary Committee and was ranked by National Journal in 2007 as the fifth-most conservative Republican in the Senate. Cruz called him "the strongest opponent of amnesty in the United States Congress."

Most importantly, though, Sessions happens to be the guy who vouches for Cruz's continued assertions that he never favored legalizing undocumented immigrants. Cruz keeps trying to explain an amendment he filed to that Gang of Eight bill allowing for a path to legal status -- not citizenship -- was a "poison pill" meant to kill the bill. Even legal status, you see, is regarded by many on the right as "amnesty." Cruz insists he never actually favored a path to legal status but wanted to kill the Gang of Eight bill with that amendment. (Our fact-checker has said it's impossible to know for sure exactly what Cruz's intent was.)

Sessions, though, hasn't endorsed Cruz. He was seen donning a "Make America Great Again" hat at a Donald Trump rally in August, and he voiced his support for Trump's immigration plan. So it's no guarantee that Cruz will get Sessions's support.

But he is a key witness for Cruz -- and one he'll apparently keep citing with regularity.