Oof: Dubya refusing to fundraise for Ted Cruz?

Karen noted earlier that George W. Bush is lending a hand to Texas Republicans this year — which is amazing, for more than one reason. Who would have thought in 2008 that Dubya would ever again be an asset to the GOP on the campaign trail, especially in the age of Trump? And who would have thought that his party might actually need him to show up in his home state of all places, normally one of the safest red strongholds in America?


So he’s being a team player … except for one guy, who’s never been much of a team player himself.

Noticeably absent from [Bush’s] list is Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican who is facing a surprisingly robust challenge from Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso.

Cruz once worked for the former commander in chief, both on Bush’s presidential campaign and then in his administration. The senator also met his wife, Heidi, while working for Bush’s campaign, leading him to say that he “will always be grateful” to the former president…

Ford, the Bush spokesman, on Wednesday said there are currently no plans to host a fundraising event for Cruz, adding that he’s not aware of the senator having requested such assistance.

Imagine being told circa 2014, at the height of the tea party, that Ted Cruz needs George Bush’s help to win in Texas. What sort of political circumstances would your mind conjure to explain that statement? They probably wouldn’t involve Donald Trump, no matter how MAGA-fied you might be.

I can hear the Cruz Crew’s retort already. “How do you know he wants Dubya’s help?” Uh, why wouldn’t he? It’s all hands on deck to hold the seat. Cruz already has Trump in his corner to shore up the populist vote; he could use someone well-liked by establishmentarians to help wrangle centrist Republicans, especially if that someone happens to be universally known and relatively popular with the sort of Latino voters in Texas whom Beto O’Rourke is aggressively courting. I can hear the retort to that too, actually: “Sure, Cruz wants to win but his entire brand is being anti-establishment. He wouldn’t suddenly trot out Mr. Establishment to campaign for him.”


He wouldn’t? Are you serious? Look at what this guy has been reduced to:

McConnell recently assured Cruz in a private conversation that resources would be there for him, according to people familiar with the talk. Trump is planning to campaign for Cruz in Texas next month.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC helmed by a former top McConnell aide, has recently taken a close look at Texas, conducting polling and summarizing its findings in a memo, according to Chris Pack, a spokesman for the group.

Cruz has given speeches on the Senate floor in the past accusing McConnell of embodying everything that’s wrong with Washington, now here he is rattling his tin cup for him because he can’t hold Texas without help. All pride has been shed in the name of winning. Of course he’d happily accept Bush’s help if it was forthcoming. It says a lot too about how worrisome McConnell finds the national landscape that he’d set aside funds for Cruz and Texas that might otherwise go to tougher races like Missouri, Indiana, or West Virginia. Is Cocaine Mitch thinking that those other states are probably goners so it’s best to circle the wagons around Cruz for a race that’s still winnable?

As for Dubya’s apparent snub, there’s no mystery as to why. He doesn’t like Cruz and reportedly has said as much, in those very words, to Republican donors in the past. Although Cruz worked for the Bush administration, for his first run for Senate he restyled himself as the scourge of the Beltway GOP that Bush had helped create and cultivate, seeing populism as his path to power. (It worked for him in the Texas Senate primary in 2012 and worked for Trump against him in the 2016 GOP presidential primary.) He blasted Bush by name too: “In his book published earlier this year, Cruz ripped Bush’s record, criticizing elements of his foreign policy and faulting the administration for enabling ‘bigger government and excessive spending and new entitlements.'” His strident anti-establishmentarianism was actually a contributing factor to his 2016 defeat, as his dopey colleagues in the Senate refused to rally to his side after the primary field had winnowed to him and Trump. He’s spent the past two years rebuilding those burned bridges, with some success.


But whether for lack of effort or because some bridges simply can’t be reconstituted, evidently he hasn’t rebuilt the one to Bush.

Laura Ingraham asked Newt Gingrich about this today, to which Newt replied:

“It goes back to style,” Gingrich said. “The Bushes represent an establishment, Ted Cruz is a populist and I think in some ways they see him as being like Trump. There are two wings of the Texas Republican Party, and the establishment wing has been steadily losing ground, and they resent it.”…

“In some ways there is a presidential establishment,” Gingrich said of this tendency. “They [the Bushes] see themselves in some ways as closer to the Clintons and the Obamas because they are all in the club.”

Could be. It could be as simple as the centrist establishment Bushes refusing to lift a finger to help a populist. But of course, by fundraising for other Texas Republicans they’re indirectly helping our populist president, whom I’m sure they dislike much more than they do Cruz. We needn’t overthink it: Dubya’s snub is probably no more or less than payback to a guy who’s gotten pretty far within the Bush family’s party by flogging them. I’ll bet he’s enjoying every minute of it. Although not as much as McConnell is enjoying watching Cruz have to beg him for money.

The latest poll of Texas shows Cruz ahead, by the way — by three points. Hoo boy.

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John Sexton 3:20 PM on September 26, 2023