On Jan. 6, while the U.S. Capitol was under siege by a right-wing mob, critics accused Cruz of inciting the violence because he had spearheaded an effort to overturn the presidential election. But even as constituents demand his resignation, lawyers call for his disbarment and colleagues consider his expulsion, the senator has remained unrepentant. In fact, he even told Fox 7 Austin that he’d do it all over again.
But now, Cruz is backed into a corner, defending himself against assailants from both the left and right wings of the political stage. No matter where he turns, there are signs pointing to the exit — literally.
After the riot, a billboard near Dallas-Fort Worth Airport on Highway 121 was erected by a liberal political action committee, Mad Dog PAC. It features a headshot of Cruz and carries a simple message: “RESIGN.”
Conservative super PAC the Lincoln Project has targeted former President Donald Trump, but with him out of office, Cruz was next in line. Co-founder Rick Wilson, during an interview on the Texas political podcast Y’all-itics, said Cruz has been “flirting with outright insurrection.”
The Dallas billboard is up. Thanks all! pic.twitter.com/lr3pcPjtM7— Claude Taylor (@TrueFactsStated) January 17, 2021
“We all know Ted Cruz is sort of a political force of nature. He is what he is. You either hate him or you hate him,” Wilson said.
“Liberal Hollywood elites” have also derided the Lone Star State’s senator. Pineapple Express and Superbad actor Seth Rogen dragged Cruz on Twitter Wednesday evening, sparking a short-lived social media spar.
First, Cruz criticized President Joe Biden’s decision to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, an international treaty geared toward cutting greenhouse gas emissions. In a Twitter post, he berated Biden for being more interested in the “citizens of Paris than in the jobs of citizens in Pittsburgh.”
To that, Rogen succinctly replied: “Fuck off you fascist,” later calling Cruz a “clown” who encourages white supremacy.
Professor Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, chair of the political science department at the University of North Texas, said Cruz will likely lay low for a while. With emotions still running sky-high after the insurrection, it wouldn’t do the politician much good to address the issue head-on.
Charming, civil, educated response. ?@Sethrogen?— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 21, 2021
If you’re a rich, angry Hollywood celebrity, today’s Dems are the party for you.
If you’re blue-collar, if you’re a union member, if you work in energy or manufacturing...not so much. #JobsMatter pic.twitter.com/mwtMaBKiS2
To distance themselves from the Capitol violence, some political action committees have also cut ties with Cruz, at least temporarily. But Eshbaugh-Soha said that as the media turn to cover Biden’s administration, people’s outrage will fade — provided there isn’t another violent right-wing terrorist attack.
Cruz’s purported involvement in the failed coup didn’t seem to have much of an effect on his base anyway. A new poll from The Economist/YouGov found 61% of Republicans still view him favorably.
Plus, the Texas senator could win some brownie points for opposing the second impeachment of Trump, an effort which he slammed as “petty” and “vindictive,” according to The Dallas Morning News. But Eshbaugh-Soha said the impeachment could also stand to benefit Cruz.
“An impeachment trial might give Cruz and others an opportunity to reframe this in a way that they can make it about reinvigorating the language of a witch-hunt,” Eshbaugh-Soha said. “If you give people a platform, they might be able to change the terms of the conversation.”
And Cruz is quite the salesman. A skilled orator, he’s successfully argued both sides on debates surrounding Supreme Court appointments, free speech and his support for Trump.
No matter what, Eshbaugh-Soha said there’s a baked-in base that Cruz can count on in Texas, which could bolster his chances for reelection. Still, the senator isn’t the warmest, relatable politician, and he came close to losing his bid for reelection in 2018.
Cruz also might be eyeing the presidency. Although he was the runner-up choice for the Republican nomination in 2016, Eshbaugh-Soha said it doesn’t mean 2024 is a sure thing.
“Once you get close, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to have a shot the next time,” he said.