Politics

Rivals No More, Trump Heading to Texas to Help Cruz

Senator once called president a 'pathological liar' and 'serial philanderer'

Then-Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at a rally organized by Tea Party Patriots on Capitol Hill on Sept. 9, 2015. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Donald Trump announced Friday he will campaign in October for one of his toughest 2016 GOP primary foes, Sen. Ted Cruz, who once called the president a “pathological liar.”

The president tweeted that “Ted has my complete and total Endorsement,” and gave his opponent, Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke, the signature Trump treatment.

“His opponent is a disaster for Texas - weak on Second Amendment, Crime, Borders, Military, and Vets!” Trump wrote.

Cruz and Trump have met several times since the New York real estate executive and reality television host took office. The Texas senator sometimes defends some of Trump’s more controversial moves. But things were not always this supportive and chummy between the former rivals.

Then-candidate Trump dubbed the senator “Lyin’ Ted” during the 2016 GOP primary, and even suggested his father was involved in the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy.

Cruz in May 2016 came back with a vengeance, calling Trump a “pathological liar” and “utterly amoral.” He also dubbed his primary foe “a narcissist at a level I don't think this country's ever seen,” before branding Trump a “serial philanderer.”

“He describes his own battles with venereal diseases as his own personal Vietnam,” Cruz said then, a jab at Trump’s quips about his sex life after receiving deferments because of bone spurs during America’s war there. At the GOP convention in August 2016, Cruz got a prime speaking time — but did not clearly endorse Trump.

But none of that will be mentioned in October when the two Republicans are back on the campaign trail, this time sharing a stage.

America’s team

But just where the rally will take place has yet to be decided.

“I’m picking the biggest stadium in Texas we can find,” Trump tweeted Friday as he headed to Charlotte for fundraisers and a public event on retirement policy.

Texas has no shortage of large venues, from palatial NFL stadiums to state-of-the art NBA and college basketball areas to sparkling Major League Baseball parks. Even some of its high school football stadiums seat nearly 20,000 for games — meaning more attendees could fit for a political rally on the field.

Fans of the state’s Dallas Cowboys franchise — which self-describes itself as “America’s Team” — would consider the “biggest stadium in Texas” the team’s AT&T Stadium. The 9-year-old stadium’s official football capacity is 80,000 - but crowds of 108,713 (NBA), 105,121 (NFL) and 101,763 (WWE) have packed into the venue since its May 2009 opening.

Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones, a Texas billionaire, just happens to be a friend and supporter of, you guessed it, Trump. He has held big-dollar fundraisers for the president in the past.

Whatever stadium Trump’s team picks, he will be injecting himself into one of the most closely watched Senate races of this cycle. If O’Rourke can pull close to Cruz in Texas — or pull ahead in the polls — it would be viewed as a sign of a coming Democratic wave in November. That the president is even heading to the Lone Star State to give his former foe a boost is telling.

‘Real race’

O'Rourke's massive fundraising has raised led to some cautious optimism among Democrats that he could compete in the state — even if national Democrats still view Texas as a longshot. (National Democrats believe they have better pickup opportunities in Arizona, Nevada and Tennessee and the party also has several red state Democratic incumbents to defend.)

O’Rourke and Cruz have both raised nearly more than $23 million. As of the end of the second fundraising quarter on June 30, O’Rourke, who does not accept PAC money, had $14 million on hand compared to Cruz’s $9 million according to Federal Election Commission documents.

Some Texas Democrats who are cautiously optimistic about a competitive Senate race have noted that Trump won the state by 9 points — the smallest margin for a Republican presidential nominee in Texas in nearly 20 years.

Cruz has signaled in recent weeks that he could be in for a tougher race against the El Paso congressman than originally expected, telling a local news station he had a “real race” on his hands, and skipping some votes in the Senate during its August work period to spend time campaigning in Texas. Politico reported that the conservative Club for Growth is also planning to spend in the race to help the Texas Republican.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Likely Republican.

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