Cruz plays the inside game to beat O'Rourke

Cruz’s TV ads have touted his record bringing home billions in federal relief spending after Hurricane Harvey, highlighting “bipartisan” tax relief for those affected by the storm. Cruz’s Texas colleague, Sen. John Cornyn — whom Cruz declined to endorse in 2014 when Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, faced a primary challenge — headlined a six-figure fundraiser for Cruz in Washington. And Cruz has leaned on help from the highest echelons of the Republican Party, campaigning with Vice President Mike Pence and Donald Trump Jr. in Texas recently and getting a commitment from President Donald Trump for a future event.

Cruz remains as conservative as ever, but he sanded down some of the sharp edges on his personality and political strategy in the Senate last year, working within his party on Obamacare repeal and other legislative efforts instead of from the outside as he had in 2013. Now, Cruz’s insider connections are powering his effort to return for a second term.

“It would be disingenuous for Cruz to campaign as an outsider when he’s in there in the thick of things,” said Dave Carney, a veteran Republican strategist who worked with Cruz’s GOP opponent in 2012 before briefly working with him in 2016.