Anyone who predicted last spring that donors to Texas Senator Ted Cruz's then-nascent presidential campaign were setting their money on fire is probably feeling pretty foolish right about now. Yep, that was a boneheaded move right there. In the six-plus months between Cruz's presidential announcement at Liberty University and Wednesday night's third GOP presidential debate, his campaign has been both adeptly run and increasingly lucky. About 90 days out from the February 1 Iowa caucuses, Texas' junior senator is looking good. Well, not him so much, but his campaign.
This week, especially, has been fun for Cruz. Monday, he picked up the endorsement of Texas' most powerful elected official, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, joining forces with someone who supported one of Cruz's opponents during Cruz's 2012 Senate campaign.
"Senator Cruz is the prescription for what ails the Republican Party and this country," Patrick said. "This country has been in malaise for eight years. Our party has been asleep for more than eight years."
Patrick then called Cruz America's greatest conservative hope since Ronald Reagan, before heading with the senator to a gun range to shoot semiautomatic weapons.
Cruz named Patrick the chair of his Texas campaign, and Patrick says he will make speeches for Cruz at functions the senator can't attend. Following former-Texas Governor Rick Perry's getting out of the race early, much of the rest of the Texas GOP is also getting in line behind the Canadian-born Cruz. Five of Perry's major fundraisers also announced their support for Cruz on Monday, as did Railroad Commissioners David Porter and Ryan Sitton.
Cruz is consolidating support in his home state ahead of the March 1 Southern-focused primary election day that's become known as the SEC primary. In the only major poll of likely Texas GOP voters that's been done ahead of the primary, Cruz trailed only Donald Trump, a candidate Cruz has been cleverly drafting behind. Cruz told Politico Tuesday he's uniquely positioned to win over extremely conservative Republicans once voting starts.
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"The players that were expected to be formidable [among very conservative voters] have not got the traction they had hoped,” Cruz said. “The most encouraging thing I would say is that I think three of the lanes are collapsing into one, which is the evangelical lane, the conservative Tea Party lane and the libertarian lane are all collapsing into the conservative lane and we’re seeing those lanes unify behind our campaign."
As Cruz's fellow radical, borderline-theocratic candidates flounder, he just keeps stockpiling cash, readying himself to collect soon-to-be dropped-out contenders' soon-to-be-candidateless followers. As of October 15, Cruz has raised $64.9 million combined between his campaign and his Super PAC, the third most of any candidate. He had the most cash on hand of any GOP candidate. His "burn rate" — the amount of money a candidate spends relative to the amount he or she takes in — didn't even crack the top 10 in the third quarter. He's got enough money to hang around and then some, and people are starting to notice.
George W. Bush saw fit to single out Cruz earlier in October, telling a crowd of fellow Republicans that he just didn't like the guy, and conservative-radio yakker Rush Limbaugh recently slobbered all over the senator.
"I think that there is a dark horse in this entire thing. I think there is one candidate who is positioned here. ... There has been somebody trucking along here, steady Eddie that has continued to be who he is and continues to lay down foundational markers for himself, and that's Ted Cruz. ... Cruz is inarguably thoroughbred conservative," Limbaugh said.