Ted Cruz is where he is today—the next senator from Texas, barring any unforeseen circumstances such as being eaten alive by angry trolls—because of the tea party faithful. The true believers propelled Cruz to an unlikely victory over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who had the backing of the Republican establishment including one-time tea party favorite Gov. Rick Perry. With his uber-conservative positions on issues from health care (bad) to gun rights (good), coupled with his outsider cred, Cruz quickly became a renegade hero to the right. He owes them, big time.
So why does it seem like he’s tiptoeing away from them?
More extreme candidates like Cruz tend to morph into typical politicians once they get elected (see: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio) unless they’re complete whack jobs (see: South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint). Despite his hardline views and fiery rhetoric, Cruz is not just another whack job—he’s a highly intelligent whack job. And a rising star’s political future is much more critical than answering to the outlandish needs and wants of a fringe group like the Tea Party Express. Cruz may be more beholden to the interests of his big financial backers, Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, which successfully convinced primary voters that Dewhurst was a socialism-loving moderate.
But now that same moderate has hit the campaign trail for Cruz, his former foe, along with Perry. Of course, Perry was perfectly willing to switch his allegiance immediately following Dewhurst’s loss. In a statement he called Cruz “a force to be reckoned with: an excellent candidate and a great conservative communicator.” Both Sen. John Cornyn and retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison have been prominently featured at wealthy fundraisers for Cruz, presumably too rich for tea party blood. The heady days of Sarah Palin and Sean Hannity have given way to more low-key appearances.
Not that Cruz has given any indication that he would soften his positions, such as his harsh immigration stance and firm opposition to the DREAM Act (unless it applies to Canadians). Cruz will no doubt remain a conservative’s conservative, especially given that his party is increasingly lurching to the right. Not surprisingly, the National Right to Life Committee and the Texas Alliance for Life endorsed him this week for his anti-abortion credentials, including his defense of parental consent laws in front of the Supreme Court. Cruz has also received endorsements from more centrist groups such as the Texas Association of Business and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In an interview with conservative media outlet NewsMax, Cruz blamed Republicans in Congress for the national debt and said that there is a “second wave of new Republican leaders” coming to Washington who will make the “hard choices.” One can only assume Cruz considers himself one of those “new Republican leaders.” He added that he would, however, be willing to work with other senators.
Sure, he’ll throw a bone to his loyal base every now and again, like his recent tweet about the administration’s “assault on Constitution, 1st Amendment & religious liberty” and a few winking asides on state sovereignty and government-dependent hooligans. But just because you helped get a guy elected, doesn’t mean he’ll end up helping you.