Freshman Sen. Ted Cruz may be the darling of the tea party and the bane of Washington's mainstream political establishment, but he's beginning to draw fire from some Texas Republicans who worry that he's more interested in fueling his 2016 presidential ambitions than in tending to Lone Star State business in Washington.
"He's our Cruz-missile," a major Texas GOP fundraiser told National Journal. "The wingers love him, and establishment Republicans tolerate him because they're scared of him. But he's not taking care of business at home, and he's already the most hated Texan in Washington."
Cruz associates pass such brickbats off as sour grapes from a Texas GOP establishment that Cruz embarrassed by demolishing Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the party favorite, in last year's primary.
"He's the toast of conservative gatherings everywhere he goes," one Cruz ally said. "He really knocks 'em dead."
Cruz's press secretary, Catherine Frazier, noted that since being sworn in last January her boss "has done well over 60 public events in nearly 20 cities across Texas."
"Senator Cruz's top priority is serving Texas in the Senate and standing up for the principles that Texans elected him to defend," Frazier said.
There's no doubting Cruz's star power. He's one of the most sought-after speakers on the national Republican circuit, drawing standing ovations with his attacks on Obama administration policies while excoriating what some call President Obama's leadership failures.
But the same bombastic style that whips up party faithful and has catapulted him into the 2016 presidential conversation has also alienated some Republican senators who don't enjoy being lectured to by a colleague with even less senatorial experience than Obama had when he ran for President.
Many Texas Republicans are frankly scared of him. Sen. John Cornyn, who has impeccable conservative credentials, is widely described as fearful of being perceived as to the left of Cruz. When Cruz decided to vote against Sen. John Kerry for secretary of State, Cornyn followed suit. Only one other senator joined them.
"It's fine that he's in demand around the country," one top Texas Republican said. "But he spends relatively little time in Texas. Most Texas businessmen are conservative, but they're not extreme right and they don't know him. That's problematic; it's time for a little outreach back home."
Another Cruz skeptic adds: "The problem with Cruz is, he's angry. He needs to figure out a way to soften his image."