Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Ted Cruz seeking Senate reelection, but he hasn’t ruled out presidential bid

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX., speaks to a reporter as he walks through the Senate subway during a series of votes on Capitol Hill on Feb. 16, 2022, in Washington, D.C.  (Tribune News Service)
By Gromer Jeffers Jr. The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS – Ted Cruz has seemingly taken himself out of the 2024 presidential sweepstakes, saying last week that he’s focused on being reelected to a third term in the Senate.

While it’s clear that Cruz will run in earnest for reelection, don’t believe that he doesn’t have an eye toward the 2024 presidential race or the fallout from what could be a fascinating GOP presidential primary.

On Sunday’s edition of Lone Star Politics, a political show produced by KXAS-TV (NBC5) and The Dallas Morning News, I asked Cruz if he had ruled out a run for president.

“I am running for reelection for Senate in 2024,” he said. “It is the honor of my life to represent 30 million Texans, and what I’m doing each and every day is going to Washington and fighting for 30 million Texans.”

He didn’t rule it out. But now most analysts don’t think he’ll take advantage of a Texas law that would allow him to simultaneously run for reelection and president.

But that doesn’t mean he’s not biding his time.

“Ted Cruz was born to run for president. It’s just part of his political DNA,” said University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus. “A lot of candidates, once they get a sniff of that first campaign for president, it stays with them.”

Rottinghaus added that the Texan in Cruz fueled his dreams of the White House. It the same pride that will have Texas Gov. Greg Abbott consider his place in the 2024 field.

“Any politician from Texas is thinking about the big picture,” Rottinghaus said. “That’s just naturally woven into the state’s political ethos.”

It doesn’t make sense for Cruz to tip his hand about a presidential campaign. From a political standpoint, he’s currently boxed into running for reelection because the messaging for a presidential campaign would be tricky.

In 2016 he was the last Republican candidate standing against Donald Trump, becoming the then-New York businessman’s most bitter rival. When Trump captured the nomination, it wasn’t clear if Cruz would endorse him. But weeks after failing to make an endorsement at the Republican National Convention, and after Trump provided a list of his potential nominees for the Supreme Court, Cruz kissed the ring.

What followed was a strong alliance between the two men. Cruz would have a hard time untangling that relationship as an early candidate for president.

Trump is already in the race and tossing barbs at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, widely considered the best alternative to the former president. Last week, Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador, announced a bid for the White House. More candidates are expected for what could be a dramatic primary.

“You’re going to see a crowded presidential primary,” Cruz said when I asked him how strong of a candidate Trump will be next year. “It’s going to be a wild and woolly race. I feel confident it’s not going to be boring, but at the end of the day, the voters are going to decide and what I do feel very confident about is in 2024, I think the voters want to change the path we’re on.”

So Cruz will run for Senate while eagerly watching how the presidential race unfolds. If Trump or DeSantis tanks for any reason, he’ll likely emerge as a candidate. Having run for president in 2016, he’ll be able to activate a nationwide organization much quicker than a first-time candidate.

Cruz could also be running-mate material for a GOP presidential nominee. Texas law also allows a candidate to run for vice president and Senate at the same time. The so-called LBJ rule allowed then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson to run on a national ticket with John F. Kennedy while hedging his bet by running for reelection to the Senate. Lloyd Bentsen did the same thing in the 1988 presidential election, running both with Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis and for reelection. Johnson won the vice presidency, Bentsen lost to Dan Quayle.

Cruz is already touting Texas as a model for the nation. Here’s part of what he said when I asked him about 2024: “Voters want to change the path we’re on. You look at the state of Texas. Texas is booming, because we understand low taxes, low regulations, let small businesses grow. It’s why people from all over the country moved to Texas, and I think we need to move the rest of the country in the direction of the policies that work here in Texas.”