Oh my: GOP congressman being recruited to primary Ted Cruz

Long overdue. This party needs to be completely cleansed of people who appeal to voters’ consciences.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that Mike McCaul and any other prospective primary challenger will wait until the results are in on November 8th before deciding whether to leap. There’s no sense trying to punish Cruz for his betrayal of Our Leader at the convention until we know whether he’ll still be Our Leader in 2018 or not.

In the wake of Cruz’s controversial speech at the party convention where he refused to endorse Donald Trump, the Texas senator’s GOP critics believe there could be a new opening for an intraparty challenge. And behind the scenes, GOP donors and Texas politicians have urged Rep. Mike McCaul to consider mounting a bid against him in 2018, according to three sources familiar with the matter…

“Mike is very well-networked within the donor class,” [fundraiser George] Seay said. “He knows an awful lot of people.”

Well-placed Texans predict that the strongest primary challenge to Cruz would come from a business-allied Republican who can capture both the party’s moderate wing and also the aggrieved Trump voters who felt snubbed by Cruz’s high-profile non-endorsement. And sources trying to recruit McCaul into the race believe he can be convinced to run if big donors in the state decide not to put their money behind Cruz…

Republicans say McCaul is not actively making moves to launch a challenge, given that the race is still two years away. But he is hearing pitches from donors and elected officials about a possible run, and listening intently, sources said.

Right, McCaul is almost made to order in terms of knocking off Cruz in a primary. Angry Trumpers might want blood but they’re not going to beat a well-organized incumbent like Cruz with an underfunded Paul-Nehlen-type character whose only media strategy is lobbing angry rhetorical grenades at Traitor Ted. They need a pro with money behind him, and they need to accept that the best strategy against Cruz is a pincer movement with Cruz-hating establishmentarians attacking on one flank and Cruz-hating grassroots Trumpkins attacking on the other. In theory Cruz is vulnerable because there’s reason to believe, at least for the moment, that he’s lost some of his own considerable fundraising firepower. Sheldon Adelson reportedly turned him away from his box at the convention when Cruz stopped by to see him after his speech and the Mercer family rebuked Cruz publicly in a statement to the New York Times a few weeks ago. If big money starts moving from Cruz to McCaul and if Trump fans in Texas hold a grudge for the next two years, then yeah, maybe McCaul can make a dent.

If you don’t believe me, consider this from the latest WSJ/NBC poll:

Here’s the problem with McCaul, though. He’s not a backbencher in the House. He’s the chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security. He’s a major natsec player. If he retires from the House to focus on his Senate run, he’d be risking a lot. Cruz won’t be easy to beat even in a worst-case scenario for him, either. He topped Trump by 17 points in the Texas primary this year, remember, and would have won bigger if not for Rubio hanging around to siphon off 18 percent of the vote himself. Cruz’s comfort zone politically is attacking his opponents as tools of the establishment and McCaul would give him ample targets to do that once he starts piling up business-interest money for his primary challenge. And Cruz will spend plenty of time and effort over the next two years rebuilding some of the bridges he burned in Cleveland, starting with Adelson and the Mercers and almost certainly extending to Trump himself, especially if Trump’s serious about spending Super PAC money to primary him. People like to say that Cruz stands to be a big winner if Trump collapses in November, which is sort of true — but I’d bet you’ll never once hear Cruz crow about it. On the contrary, I expect him to bend over backwards to flatter Trump once it’s over — “he harnessed a lot of righteous anger,” “he achieved something amazing in getting as close as he did in his first run for office,” and so on. Even if Trump doesn’t start a Super PAC to target Cruz, he could do damage to him in 2018 by sniping at him in interviews, which would nudge Trump fans in Texas not to forgive and forget. If Cruz makes nice and Trump lays off of him, Cruz should be fine.

By the way, it’s not just McCaul’s name that’s being kicked around. Three other names are mentioned in CNN’s write-up. One is Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who’s supporting Trump but whose tea-party base overlaps considerably with Cruz’s. In fact, Patrick was chairman of Cruz’s Texas campaign. Is he so aggrieved about Cruz’s “vote your conscience” plea that he’d roll the dice on a Senate challenge rather than wait his turn for governor? Another name tossed around is, er, George P. Bush, Jeb’s son, who endorsed Trump this weekend. A Bush/Cruz death match would be tons of fun, but if you’re looking to galvanize Trumpers against Cruz, I’m not sure Jeb Bush’s kid is the one to do it. And the third name mentioned is Rick Perry’s, who gave the most eloquent anti-Trump stemwinder of the campaign last year before becoming a Cruz supporter and then a loyal Trumpist once Cruz was out of the race. Perry obviously has tons of donor connections and name recognition in Texas. But what would a primary between him and Cruz be about? Would it be a pure referendum on Cruz’s refusal to endorse Trump? Does Perry even want to be a senator? Of the three, I think Patrick’s potentially the best bet since he could keep some grassroots conservatives away from Cruz. But even then, would establishmentarians really prefer a firebrand like Patrick to Cruz?

Eh, no one’s going to care in two years. Especially after Trump and Cruz are frenemies again.