Politico (with permission) —
Texas Sen. John Cornyn has heard the same allegation all year: He's
blindly following his junior Lone Star State colleague and tea party
hero, Ted Cruz, to help shore up his right flank.
Cornyn is ready to put that to rest.
“I would say the recent events would probably run counter to that
narrative,” Cornyn said in an interview Tuesday with a big chuckle in
his whip office just steps from the Senate floor.
Indeed, over the past several weeks, Cornyn and Cruz found themselves
increasingly at odds in a tense public battle over whether to use a
potential government shutdown as leverage to defund Obamacare. After
initially signing on to Cruz's effort, Cornyn withdrew his support and
became a leading critic of the tactic, helping quash any momentum his
colleague hoped to gain on the Senate floor this week.
Cruz, who spent all night on Tuesday using a floor speech to deride
the health care overhaul, has attacked his GOP colleagues for cowering
in the fight over Obamacare. He's increasingly alienated from most
Senate Republicans, who believe his tactics have hurt their party
politically and put them in a weaker negotiating position with the White
But he has also made things more personal for Cornyn.
He refuses to publicly endorse Cornyn, the Senate's No. 2 Republican,
in his reelection bid, a highly unusual move for a senator from the
same state and party. That has infuriated Cornyn allies who see it as a
slight that will come back to haunt Cruz should he run for president in
2016 or need Cornyn's help in the future.
What's more irritating to Cornyn allies is that behind the scenes,
Cruz has quietly tried to help his senior colleague even though he won't
publicly commit to endorsing him. Cruz's political
action committee donated $2,500 to Cornyn's reelection effort, and
the freshman even attended a fundraiser for his colleague last weekend
in South Texas where the two men went dove hunting with big donors.
Cruz declined to be interviewed for this story.
The friction is an indication of the path Cruz is paving ahead of a
potential presidential run in 2016. Unlike his prospective rival
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a tea party favorite who has methodically
developed ties to his party establishment and endorsed his senior GOP
senator, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Cruz has effectively
burnt bridges with his party's leadership.
“He asked me, and I said yes,” Paul said when asked why he endorsed
McConnell. Asked if he had any second thoughts, Paul said: “No.”
In the interview, Cornyn said he's never asked for Cruz's
endorsement. He said he doesn't believe that endorsements really matter
to the outcome of a political campaign and insisted the two men still
have a “good” personal relationship.
“I have been in 15 contested elections, and I think endorsements from public officials are overrated,” Cornyn said flatly.
In August, Cruz told reporters in New Hampshire that Cornyn is a
“friend” but he would stay out of incumbent primaries, saying senators
needed to go “make the case to the grass roots.”
In a peculiar way, Cornyn helped pave the way for Cruz's political
career. While serving as Texas attorney general, Cornyn created the
position of solicitor general, which Cruz later filled for five years
and used to set the course for his 2012 Senate run. Cornyn stayed out of
Cruz's crowded 2012 primary but later lent him fundraising support in
his easy ride to victory.
When Cruz came to Washington, Cornyn was quick to align himself with
his junior colleague. Cornyn, a former two-time chairman of the National
Republican Senatorial Committee, helped Cruz land a vice chairmanship
on the powerful panel. He helped Cruz secure a key spot on the Senate
Judiciary Committee, allowing him to have a voice in the gun control
fight. And it was Cornyn's decision to give up his spot on the Armed
Services Committee that gave Cruz a seat on the panel and the ability to
aggressively question Chuck Hagel during his contentious confirmation
hearings for defense secretary earlier this year.