Cruz Says McConnell Misled on Funding Incumbents
Sen. Ted Cruz is suggesting current Majority Leader Mitch McConnell misled him about the objectives of the National Republican Senatorial Committee last cycle.
The Texas Republican’s vice chairmanship of the party campaign committee was always a bit mysterious, and in his new book to be released Tuesday, Cruz contends that McConnell, the longtime Kentucky senator who faced perhaps the most vociferous tea party primary challenger of the year, said the NRSC would not be defending its own incumbents.
“When I mentioned to Mitch that if the NRSC had its way, every one of those four conservatives would have lost, he promised that the committee would stay out of primaries from here on out. He said he wanted to bring the tea party and the grassroots together with the GOP. I agreed with that goal and based on that commitment — to stay out of primaries — I signed up,” Cruz says in “A Time for Truth,” which is part memoir and part political blueprint for the conservative presidential candidate.
If a party committee decided that it was not going to support its own senators when they face electoral trouble, the committee might have difficulty getting members to contribute during the election cycles that they do not appear on the ballot, however. Both the NRSC and its Democratic counterpart are dedicated to retaining their incumbents.
A source familiar with the NRSC’s work in 2014 called the idea that the committee would do otherwise “absurd.”
“I doubt there has been a voice less conflicted on the principle of protecting his members than Sen. McConnell,” the source said.
Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, one of Cruz’s first allies in Washington, upended GOP incumbent Robert F. Bennett on the way to first winning the Senate seat in 2010, but now as an incumbent he has the stated support of the NRSC.
Cruz says that he started off the 2014 cycle as a vice chairman raising money and building support for the NRSC’s operations among his base, the more tea party-affiliated wing of the party.
“But it soon became clear that the NRSC had every intention of supporting incumbents — in primaries — against conservative challengers across the country. And even in open races, it actively urged donors to give money to candidates opposing tea party conservatives,” Cruz said. “That didn’t sit right with me.”
Cruz’s even figurehead role as a vice chairman of the NRSC brought no shortage of criticism, as his efforts in support of outside groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund clearly had the effect of working against incumbent Republicans. In the most notable instance, the SCF endorsed Matt Bevin in his primary challenge to McConnell.
While McConnell was able to raise his own funds, he of course had the backing of the NRSC.
“I didn’t formally resign my position, but I stopped asking donors to support the NRSC; I didn’t agree with what they were doing in primaries, and so I wasn’t willing to ask others to fund those efforts,” Cruz said. “It was yet another lesson: Assurances in Washington come with expiration dates.”
When reached for comment, NRSC Communications Director Andrea Bozek thanked Cruz for his work in the cycle.
“Senator Cruz was an invaluable member of the NRSC leadership team that delivered a Republican majority to the United States Senate in 2014. We couldn’t have done it without him,” Bozek said.