Ted Cruz’s strong showing in recent polls is provoking an interesting response from his colleagues in the Senate. The more success he shows, the more people line up behind his rival for the nomination, Marco Rubio:
Senior Republican senators who’ve clashed with Cruz for years have had nothing but nice things to say about Rubio even as he’s dissed — and largely ditched — his day job in the Capitol. Just this month, Rubio has racked up endorsements from nine members of Congress, compared with two for early GOP front-runner Jeb Bush. More House endorsements for Rubio are set to roll out in December, according to campaign sources, and several GOP senators said privately they expect their colleagues to get behind Rubio once the GOP field thins.
Why the sudden stampede toward Marco Rubio? Despite past disagreements with Cruz, Republicans insist it’s mainly because they think Rubio would be a stronger candidate in the general election:
“Marco is a true next-generation conservative,” said Steve Daines (R-Mont.), one of three senators who endorsed Rubio in November. “Every time there’s a debate, his stock goes up.”
Cruz winning the nomination “could happen with the angry situation we have out there” among the GOP electorate, said one Republican senator who hasn’t endorsed in the race but does not want Cruz.
On the electability question, it’s easy to see where congressional Republicans are coming from: Cruz has taken some hard line positions, especially on immigration reform, that could come back to bite him later. That said, he’s also made a point of engaging voters on issues like religious liberty and right-to-life in a way that’s clearly energizing the Republican base. Considering how many conservatives stayed home in 2012 when Republicans shied away from these issues, I don’t think Cruz’s appeal is something to panic about.
Nick Arnold is a researcher for the American Principles Project.