“This election, the Senate is hanging by a thread, and I do not want to wake up in November and hear these words: Majority Leader Chuck Schumer,” Cruz said at an annual rally held by the Kingwood Tea Party. “I promise that would be a bad, bad thing for our nation, so I am working hard to help my colleagues in tough races get re-elected.”
“Whatever happens, we need a check of a Republican Senate to check the executive and protect our liberty,” Cruz added, touting how he is raising money and contributing to get-out-the-vote efforts for his vulnerable colleagues.
Taken together, Cruz’s remarks represented his most extensive comments yet on his political plans between now and November. He has kept a relatively low profile since the Republican National Convention in July, when he caused an uproar by declining to endorse presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Cruz did not mention Trump on Friday but called Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton “manifestly unfit to be the president of the United States.” He also revived a joke about her from his presidential campaign, saying, “I do have some government housing in mind for her, but it’s a little smaller and has fewer windows.”
In his speech at the convention, Cruz told Republicans to vote their conscience in November and make sure they do not stay home. He offered something of an extension of that theme Friday, arguing that Texas Republicans, specifically, have a lot to lose if they skip the polls in November.
In the Lone Star State, Cruz said, “it matters that we turn out.”
“If conservatives decide, ‘I may not be happy with how this election turned out, so I’ll just stay home,’ it doesn’t take that many to have an enormous impact on the outcome,” Cruz said. “It doesn’t take that many staying home in county after county after county to suddenly start seeing devastating losses, massive wins for Democrats on local judicial races, on state rep races, on state Senate races, on races up and down the ticket … particularly in close big urban counties.”
Cruz has increased his political activity in recent days, agreeing to send $100,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and to host a pair of fundraisers for endangered colleagues. Some Republicans worry Trump is having a harmful effect on Republican incumbents, but Cruz steered clear of that topic when asked about it after his remarks at the rally.
“I am working hard to preserve our Senate majority, and this election we have a number of Republicans in tough, close races, and I’m going to do everything I can to keep the Senate in Republican hands so that we can have a majority that can fight to defend our freedom,” Cruz told The Texas Tribune.
His refusal to back Trump has rippled through the Texas GOP and sparked speculation he could face a credible challenger in 2018. U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, in particular, has been urged to take on Cruz in the primary.
However, Cruz expressed little worry about his re-election prospects after the rally, where he was greeted by an overwhelmingly pro-Cruz crowd.
“I approach every election working to earn the votes of each and every voters across Texas, but I am encouraged by the supports and the passions of so many men and women across the state,” Cruz told the Tribune.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune, a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
Top image: Former Republican U.S. presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks during the third night of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on July 20, 2016. Photo by Brian Snyder/REUTERS.