Book Excerpt: How Ted Cruz was converted to Trumpism ๐Ÿ’ฅ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿ’ฅ

If a wake is your idea of a great vacation, then you really should have spent a week with Ted Cruz in Park City in the summer of 2016. The Texas senator fled to the mountain resort community about thirty-three miles east of Salt Lake City, popular with the jet-set crowd to reassess the state of his suddenly stalled-out political career after delivering a speech at the Republican convention that landed with a thud.

Losing a presidential election when you actually have a chance to win is like a dagger to the heart, a punch to the gut, and having a hole drilled in your headโ€”all at once. To clear his head, a depressed Cruz headed to a vacation home owned by Willie T. Langston II, a hedge fund manager in Houston and something of a mentor to the senator, who served as his campaignโ€™s finance chairman. Cruz was joined by his wife and two daughters, plus close adviser Jason Johnson and his wife and kids, as he wallowed in despair and uncertainty.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) addresses a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 6, 2021. Picture taken October 6, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo
(Reuters)

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Cruz was not just absorbing the loss of a presidential campaign, which was bad enough. He was having an existential crisis. Though critical of the Republican establishment, he still thought of the Republican Party as his party. And grassroots Republicans? The voters who were cheering him on as he fought the GOP establishment? Cruz had been their hero. After his “vote your conscience” speech at Donald Trumpโ€™s coronation in Cleveland, the senator was excommunicated by both. Mulling the future in Park City, Cruz candidly confessed to Johnson that he wasnโ€™t even sure he could win reelection to the Senate in 2018, an insecurity that proved prescient.

Yes, Cruz was reelected. But he nearly wasnโ€™t, defeating Democrat Beto Oโ€™Rourke by 2.6 percentage points. And Cruz had to recast himself as a pragmatic legislator, focused on, as the old trope goes, “getting things done,” to buy himself that extra 2.6 percent. The break with the old, uncompromising Cruz was stark. In early July 2017, I covered the senator for the Washington Examiner as he met with constituents during a town hall meeting in McKinney, an exurban community of approximately two hundred thousand people about thirty-five miles north of Dallas. The amount of time Cruz spent detailing his proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare, and the emphasis he placed on his willingness to compromise with colleagues to pass legislation in the Senate, sounded, stylistically, nothing like the Cruz I had covered up close for nearly five years.

Ted Cruz and Donald Trump

Ted Cruz and Donald Trump
(AP)

Meanwhile, in Park City, Cruz was stumped by Trump, unsure what his presidency would look like. Each day that week, Cruz and Johnson went back and forth speculating about what path the GOPโ€™s 2016 nominee might take if he beat Democrat Hillary Clinton, with the underlying theme of their conversations an attempt to figure out what path Cruz should take.

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“Is Trump as bad as we think he is? How might he govern?”

They discussed pros and cons. As the week wore on and Cruzโ€™s anguish began to subside, the focus shifted to how Cruz was going to claw out a political future in the Republican Party and, therefore, how he was going to find a way to unequivocally endorse Trump for president. The truth is, he loved every minute of the 2016 campaign, except the part where he lost. Cruz had every intention of doing it again. As he would tell me about four and a half years later in an interview for the Washington Examiner, “The campaign was the most fun Iโ€™ve ever had in my life.”

President Donald Trump walks across the tarmac to board Air Force One at in Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, to travel to Michie Stadium at the United States Military Academy to attend the 121st Army-Navy Football Game at West Point, N.Y. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Donald Trump walks across the tarmac to board Air Force One at in Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, to travel to Michie Stadium at the United States Military Academy to attend the 121st Army-Navy Football Game at West Point, N.Y. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

But first he had to make amends with Trump, because he had to make amends with the grassroots Republicans who had rejected himโ€”who “hate me”โ€”for rejecting a presidential nominee that they were absolutely smitten with. Between Cruz and Johnson, they both agreed that framing an endorsement around the critically important issue of the balance of power on the Supreme Court was the best approach. After Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to give any nominee of Barack Obamaโ€™s a hearing, saying it was an election year and that voters should decide which presidential candidate they preferred to have control of the appointment. With millions of Republican voters weighing the same decision, it seemed a plausible way for Cruz to explain his change of heart.

Johnson offered Cruz one crucial piece of advice: If Cruz was going to back Trump, he had to be willing to go all the way, no fancy language or rhetorical contraptions about the endorsement being about anything other than what it was aboutโ€”supporting Trump 110 percentโ€”or Cruz would never recover.

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Cruz made his decision. On September 23, 2016, he posted a lengthy statement on Facebook that included these lines:

Our country is in crisis. Hillary Clinton is manifestly unfit to be president, and her policies would harm millions of Americans. And Donald Trump is the only thing standing in her way … If you donโ€™t want to see a Hillary Clinton presidency, I encourage you to vote for him.

Cruz and Trump would proceed to have a rather cordial and productive relationship. They talked on the phone often, and Cruz now and again convinced Trump to make this or that policy decision. In 2018, when Cruz was in dire straits versus Oโ€™Rourke, Trump even traveled to Houston and put on one of his signature campaign rallies to boost the senatorโ€™s reelection prospects.

Of course, when Trump ran for reelection two years later and put on a pandemic-altered convention that featured televised coverage of dozens of prominent Republicans speaking on his behalf, Cruz wasnโ€™t invited.

Adapted from IN TRUMPโ€™S SHADOW: The Battle for 2024 and the Future of the GOP ยฉ2021 David Drucker and reprinted by permission from Twelve Books/Hachette Book Group

Book Excerpt: How Ted Cruz was converted to Trumpism

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