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Outraised and outhustled is Cruz losing mojo

Issued: 2018-03-08

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Ted Cruz slayed the Texas Republican establishment in 2012 with his Senate win, took Washington by storm as its leading conservative flamethrower and finished second only to Donald Trump for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

His success was built on a frenetic campaign and tireless travel schedule, raking in small-donor dollars as he hit every sparsely-attended tea party gathering, church forum and Republican women's luncheon he could.

Now seeking a second Senate term, Cruz has been outraised by his Democratic opponent, one-time punk rocker and El Paso Congressman Beto O'Rourke, who also has visited more of Texas lately. Compounding questions about whether Cruz's Texas campaign mojo is slipping is the candidate's own refusal to rule out another White House run post-Trump.

"My focus is on representing 28 million Texans," Cruz, who is only 47 and has time for another presidential bid, said on a recent conference call with reporters. But he continued: "In the presidential race we saw enormous support, in Texas, where we won the state solidly, and we saw enormous support nationwide, winning 12 states across the country and unifying a great many conservatives."

O'Rourke sees it as a sign of Cruz' complacency and is trying to take advantage. Whenever Congress isn't in session O'Rourke packs his days in Texas with events, driving himself between stops. He has vowed to visit all 254 Texas counties and often notes that Cruz brags about hitting each of the 99 Iowa counties on his way to winning that state's caucuses in 2016 — but hasn't done the same back home.

"The best reliable laugh line is to ask when Ted Cruz last held a town hall in their area," O'Rourke said of his extensive crisscrossing of Texas.

Being potentially out-hustled by a high-energy candidate who is now campaigning a bit like Cruz once did may not be enough to flip a Senate seat in deep red Texas, though. Cruz remains the prohibitive favorite, although his profile has been lower since the failed presidential run.

"My view is Senator Cruz came back to Texas, did a lot of hard work meeting with local officials, chambers of commerce, grassroots Republicans and really successfully became ingrained back into the Texas policy and political environment," said Ray Sullivan, who was chief of staff for former Texas Gov. Rick Perry before becoming spokesman of his unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign.

Sullivan noted that while winning re-election as Texas governor in 1998, George W. Bush answered similar questions about a then-expected 2000 presidential run and "addressed it straight up and said essentially the same thing Cruz did. 'I don't have any plans right now, but I'm not going to take that bait.'"

"I think Texans almost expect their elected officials to be in the national political conservation," Sullivan said.


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