Ted Cruz won't entirely rule out reigniting the promise of his suspended presidential campaign, and said conservatives do not yet need to commit to Donald Trump's candidacy.
"We have suspended the campaign because I can see no viable path to victory," Cruz said at the Capitol on Tuesday. "If circumstances change, we'll always assess changed circumstances."
In an interview with conservative radio host Glenn Beck, Cruz demurred on supporting Donald Trump, the presumed GOP nominee, saying that conservatives do not yet need to commit to support him.
"From my perspective, this fight was about a lot more than one campaign or one candidate," Cruz said. "This fight will continue because the country's worth it."
Without mentioning Trump by name, Cruz stressed the importance of supporting a presidential candidate who will stand with Israel.
"We want to defend someone who will be a strong, serious commander in chief," he said.
Foreign affairs are likely on Cruz's mind as a days-long, closed-door session drafting national security legislation awaits him back at the Capitol.
That's what his printed schedule for this week should reflect, at least, with the Armed Services Committee huddling for days of markups outside the public eye to draft the annual defense authorization bill. It's a behind-the-scenes venue ripe for debates on everything from how many submarines to buy to what to do about detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"I think a lot of people here will always consider Ted Cruz an outsider. But ... the reason I supported Ted is I think he's a Republican. We do have differences on strategy but we're in the same party," Graham said. "I felt comfortable with Ted Cruz being a Republican."
That's not true of Trump, of course. Graham said last week he would not vote for the presumptive GOP nominee or for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Cruz was never looking to win a popularity contest in the Senate, and was never shy about criticizing the Republican establishment on the campaign trail, so its unclear how he will be greeted when he returns to regular conferences lunches on the second floor of the Capitol.
The fact that Cruz could not get a flood of endorsements from Senate colleagues cam up in the campaign and, at times, became a Trump talking point. And some Republican aides had expressed the view that those endorsements would never materialize, absent an apology to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., whom Cruz accused of lying.
Before the campaign, it had gotten so bad that he could not get the customary support for a sufficient second from 10 of his colleagues to even get to a roll call vote.
Cruz is the the third senator to return from the campaign trail. When Rand Paul abandoned his presidential bid, the Kentucky Republican was already in the middle of a re-election campaign for his Senate seat. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., had already decided that he would retire at the end of his first term.
Rubio, who said on Monday that he has no interest in being Trump's running mate, said Cruz does not face the voters until 2018.
[Related: Rubio in Middle East When Trump Closed the Deal] Bridget Bowman contributed. Contact Lesniewski at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @nielslesniewski. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.