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Has 'Cruz-Mania' Made Senator Cornyn an Afterthought?

Gage Skidmore Texas Tribune

Texas Senator John Cornyn has been in office since 2002. He’s currently the GOP minority whip. And yet, based on media appearances and general buzz, you might think Cornyn was the state’s junior Senator – second fiddle to Tea Party favorite and conservative media darling Senator Ted Cruz.

Senator Cruz has been in office for less than 9 months. But love him or hate him (and those are really the only two emotions people tend to associate with Senator Cruz) he’s taken the state’s political landscape by storm.

“What Ted Cruz does that we wish other elected officials would do, is always return to principle. That’s your North Star. It’s why you go to office in any level of government," Texas Patriots PAC president Julie Turner said.

Turner's political action committee backs conservative candidates at the local, state and federal levels. She said Cruz is like a tuning fork for politicians and conservative activists around the country.

"They don’t have to be Ted Cruz. They are their own people. But he is one example for them to learn from. And to improve what they do for their own constituents," Turner said.

The Texas Patriots PAC is exactly the kind of organization Cruz was able to get support from during his 2012 upset win in the GOP primary. And it’s those groups that continue to invite Cruz to speak.

Conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan believes part of the reason Cruz has stolen the spotlight in Texas, is because he never let it leave him after the election.

“Senator Cornyn on the other hand has not been out campaigning. He didn’t spend the year in a very high profile campaign. And he has not shown the same kind of message discipline and message consistency," Sullivan said.

Sullivan points to Cornyn’s use of #Defundobamacare on Twitter. By using that, Sullivan said Cornyn's followers should think the Senator would support any efforts to end the Affordable Care Act. But Sullivan said Cornyn has not supported Cruz’s plan to cut off funds as part of a government shutdown in December.
He says that’s an inconsistent message.

“There’s some problem that Senator Cornyn is going to have to address if he wants to, and maybe he doesn’t, want to connect with Texas voters and particularly his base voters in the same way Ted Cruz has," added Sullivan.

Another example that it’s Cruz’s Texas…and we’re all just living in it: He’s not just the top Republican according to some Republicans, he’s the top Republican according to Democrats. 

“Ted Cruz has rapidly, within a year, become the Republican that Texas Democrats love to hate," said Democratic strategist Jason Stanford. "And with Rick Perry leaving the stage, Ted Cruz is going to have that podium all alone."

Yes, he’s a Republican, but if you want to raise money as a Democrat, slap Cruz’ picture on a mailer.

Speaking of money, you could say Senator Cornyn’s bank account shows it’s still his state. He’s raised more than $2.3 million in the 2nd quarter of 2013, ending July with almost $6 million cash on hand.

Cruz only raised about $800 thousand. Then again, he’s not about run for something. Of course, you wouldn’t know that from the way he’s dominating daily press coverage. Like the multiple stories on whether he'll run for President in 2016 and whether or not he's eligible, since he was born in Canada.

But before 2016, we’ve got John Cornyn’s re-election in 2014 -- and for now Cruz isn’t endorsing his colleague. And neither are several Tea Party groups, including Julie Turner and the Texas Patriots PAC.

“We’re taking a look at all the folks in the race. We’ll see if anyone else gets in," Turner said.

There's one more thing that may show how the Senate leadership dynamic has changed.

To find a couple of audio clips for this story, I searched "Ted Cruz" on YouTube. When I clicked on one of the Cruz videos, I was greeted by a 30 second political ad that listed a candidate’s attributes.

  • 2nd Most Conservative U.S. Senator
  • A perfect voting  score from National Right to life
  • “A” rated by the NRA

Is it an ad for Ted Cruz? Nope, it’s one for John Cornyn.
Maybe the ad placement was just a coincidence. Or maybe it was a little reminder to all those Tea Party Cruz fans that Cornyn wants their vote, too.

Ben Philpott is the Managing Editor for KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @BenPhilpottKUT.
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