With a string of polls showing GOP Sen. Ted Cruz’s lead slipping, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick showed up in Washington on July 25 to deliver an urgent plea to White House officials: Send President Donald Trump.
Patrick, who chaired Trump’s 2016 campaign in the state, made the case that a Trump visit was needed to boost turnout for Cruz and the rest of the Texas Republican ticket. The lieutenant governor soon got his wish: Trump announced on Twitter late last month that he was planning a blowout October rally for Cruz, his former GOP rival.
The previously unreported meeting comes as senior Republicans grow increasingly concerned about the senator’s prospects in the reliably red state, with some expressing fear that an underperformance could threaten GOP candidates running further down the ballot. Cruz’s Democratic opponent, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, has raised barrels of cash, closed the polling gap and emerged as a cause célèbre of liberals nationwide.
Trump’s rally is just the most public display of a Republican cavalry rushing to the senator’s aid. Cruz remains a favorite to win another term, and some senior GOP figures insist the concern is overblown. Yet the party — which has had a fraught relationship with the anti-establishment Texas senator over the years — is suddenly leaving little to chance. Behind the scenes, the White House, party leaders and a collection of conservative outside groups have begun plotting out a full-fledged effort to bolster Cruz.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who’s planning an October fundraiser for Cruz at Washington’s Capital Grille restaurant, said he had a simple directive to GOP givers.
“We’re not bluffing, this is real, and it is a serious threat,” Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said in an interview. “If Ted does his job and we do ours, I think we’ll be fine. But if we have donors sitting on the sidelines thinking that, ‘Well, this isn’t all that serious,’ or ‘I don’t need to be concerned,’ then that’s a problem.”
The push reflects a broader anxiety within the party about the electoral environment this fall. It also has practical implications for the GOP: The resources devoted to Cruz include money that could otherwise be used to oust vulnerable incumbent Democrats in red states like North Dakota, Indiana and Missouri.
With O’Rourke outraising Cruz more than 2 to 1 during the past quarter, right-leaning organizations have begun routing resources to the state. The anti-tax Club for Growth, which spent millions on Cruz during his 2012 Senate bid, has started a seven-figure advertising blitz aimed at tearing down the Democratic congressman. The organization has begun polling the race, and David McIntosh, the organization’s president, recently traveled to Texas to meet with donors who could help fund the barrage. More than $1 million has been raised so far, people close to the group say.
A handful of other well-funded groups are considering joining the effort, including the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, the Mitch McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund, the newly formed Senate Reform Fund, and Ending Spending, which in the past has been bankrolled by major GOP financiers including New York City investor Paul Singer. Some of the groups have been in touch with one another as they weigh their next moves and try to determine how much their help is needed.
“I think there will be a lot of money,” said Doug Deason, a Dallas investor and prominent GOP giver who met with McIntosh.
Cruz, who aggressively wooed evangelicals during his 2016 presidential campaign, is taking steps to stir interest among conservative groups. He recently attended a Beltway meeting of the Conservative Action Project, a secretive gathering of movement leaders, where he issued a call to arms to prevent a Democratic coup in his state.
They are responding in kind. On Thursday, the Senate Conservatives Fund sent an email to supporters asking them to finance Cruz. The Family Research Council is planning a multistop October bus tour through Texas. And this week, Tea Party Patriots is expected to start a phone, text and mail campaign bolstering the senator.
“Texas is one of our top priority states,” said Jenny Beth Martin, the Tea Party Patriots co-founder. “We want to help Ted Cruz be reelected to the Senate because he’s championed our priorities on Capitol Hill.”
The senator, meanwhile, is relying on the big donor network that fueled his presidential bid. He’s been reaching out to major givers via text message and has recently been in touch with Bekah Mercer, the reclusive conservative megadonor whose father was a primary financier of Cruz’s presidential bid.
Lee Roy Mitchell, a founder of the Cinemark movie theater chain, is among those concerned that major donors aren’t taking the senator’s reelection race seriously enough.
“We’re solidly behind the senator, and I would like to think most Texans are. I believe they are,” said the Dallas-based Mitchell, an active member of the Koch political network who, with his wife, Tandy, has donated a combined $1 million to a pro-Cruz super PAC. “But there’s a tremendous amount of [Democratic] money being poured in here to change people’s opinions.”
After antagonizing the K Street set early in his Senate career, Cruz is courting it as he attempts to fill his coffers. Cruz has been regularly inviting high-powered lobbyists to dinners at Capital Grille and other Washington restaurants.
He’s been candid during the sit-downs about the threat he’s facing for reelection, those who’ve met with him say.
Cruz has filled his calendar with fundraisers, including at least three scheduled this week. And he’s turned to veteran Washington players like Wayne Berman, who’s hosted several fundraising events for the Texas senator. Berman, who sits on the board of the influential Republican Jewish Coalition, has also reached out to would-be givers from the pro-Israel and financial industries.
“Cruz has made a concerted effort over the last year and a half to listen and work with many of us around town,” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce chief political strategist Scott Reed, who attended a Cruz fundraiser last week.
Cruz is also turning to an old foe: Trump.
The senator and the president …read more
Read more here: Inside the GOP’s rescue mission for Ted Cruz