Ted Cruz Is Calling Time-Out on His Role at NRSC — For Now

The Texas Republican wants to steer clear of primaries.

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - MARCH 06: Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at the CPAC Conference, on March 6, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland. The American Conservative Union (CPAC) held its 41st annual Conservative Political conference at the Gaylord International Hotel.
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Michael Catalin
March 10, 2014, 5:28 p.m.

Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers can avoid awk­ward small talk with Ted Cruz at fun­draisers for GOP in­cum­bents this primary sea­son. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, he won’t be there.

The way Cruz sees it, there’s just no way he can, in good con­science, get in­volved in Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­an primar­ies. To get in­volved is to side with in­cum­bents, and to side with in­cum­bents is to back Wash­ing­ton’s elite. It could anoint elect­able can­did­ates, but not al­ways the most con­ser­vat­ive ones.

“If it were up to Wash­ing­ton in­siders, Charlie Crist would be in the U.S. Sen­ate in­stead of Marco Ru­bio,” Cruz said.

“If it were up to Wash­ing­ton in­siders, Ar­len Specter would be in the U.S. Sen­ate in­stead of Pat Toomey. Rand Paul wouldn’t be here. Mike Lee wouldn’t be here.”

As Re­pub­lic­ans fight to cap­ture con­trol of the cham­ber in Novem­ber, Cruz is emer­ging — again — as a voice of dis­sent in his party, boldly re­new­ing ob­jec­tions to the GOP’s in­volve­ment in primar­ies and say­ing he won’t fa­cil­it­ate such ef­forts.

This time GOP lead­ers are hes­it­ant to cri­ti­cize him, sug­gest­ing both how Cruz has las­soed the con­ser­vat­ive tea-party wing of his party and how much in­flu­ence — if not out­right lever­age — that seg­ment could ex­ert in the elec­tion.

Cruz’s ap­proach might be ex­cused, giv­en his polit­ics, ex­cept that the Texas Re­pub­lic­an serves as the Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Sen­at­ori­al Com­mit­tee’s vice chair­man for grass­roots out­reach. On the NR­SC web­site, his mug shot floats along­side those of Chair­man Jerry Mor­an of Kan­sas and Vice Chair­man Rob Port­man of Ohio.

But a united tri­um­vir­ate, this is not.

In their ef­fort to win a ma­jor­ity in the Sen­ate, es­tab­lish­ment Re­pub­lic­ans are fo­cused on reelect­ing long­time mem­bers such as Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell of Ken­tucky, Pat Roberts of Kan­sas, and Thad Co­chran of Mis­sis­sippi, all of whom face primary chal­lenges. Cruz’s de­cision not to en­dorse in primar­ies mat­ters be­cause his back­ing would carry sig­ni­fic­ant tea-party heft.

“The goal and the real­ity is that when he star­ted, he had just come through a cam­paign in which the grass­roots — the tea-party as­pect of the Re­pub­lic­an Party — had been in­volved in his cam­paign,” Mor­an said. “We wanted his ex­pert­ise and ad­vice as to how we func­tion as a broad party de­signed to win elec­tions, and that’s what he’s provided.”

But Cruz is cut­ting that ex­pert­ise off, at least for now.

“When I signed on to be vice chair­man of the NR­SC, I made it very ex­pli­cit that I don’t be­lieve the NR­SC should be in­volved in primar­ies, that its ap­pro­pri­ate role is to help elect Re­pub­lic­ans in gen­er­al elec­tions,” he said. “Sub­sequent to that time, the NR­SC made a dif­fer­ent de­cision, to get act­ively in­volved in primar­ies. I don’t agree with that.”

Asked why he doesn’t resign from his NR­SC post, Cruz said he still wants to see Re­pub­lic­ans win in Novem­ber.

“I sup­port the ul­ti­mate ob­ject­ive of help­ing elect Re­pub­lic­ans in gen­er­al elec­tions,” he said. “But at this point, I dis­agree with the ap­proach they’ve taken, and so I don’t in­tend to fa­cil­it­ate that ap­proach.”

Cruz’s abil­ity to frus­trate his fel­low Re­pub­lic­ans is no secret.

Dur­ing the Oc­to­ber gov­ern­ment shut­down, he pushed the de­fund-Obama­care le­gis­lat­ive strategy that ul­ti­mately failed and cost the party in the polls. Re­cently, he forced a dif­fi­cult clo­ture vote on rais­ing the debt ceil­ing — something the GOP-con­trolled House passed over­whelm­ingly — and per­haps most galling, he has in the past sup­por­ted con­ser­vat­ive groups that tar­geted Re­pub­lic­an in­cum­bents, though Cruz has since agreed to hold his fire dur­ing primar­ies.

For their part, though, Mor­an and Port­man de­scribe their work­ing re­la­tion­ship with Cruz pos­it­ively, if not in great de­tail.

“We work to­geth­er,” Port­man said, de­clin­ing to elab­or­ate, be­fore high­light­ing the com­mit­tee’s can­did­ate re­cruit­ment and fun­drais­ing. “We have great can­did­ates, and we just had our best month ever.”

Ad­ded Mor­an, “He is help­ful on spe­cif­ic pro­jects [when] asked to be en­gaged in.”

How is that go­ing?

“It’s go­ing fine,” Mor­an said. “He’s been help­ful.”


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