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GOP Senators are Backing Rubio—and It’s Important to Understand Why

GOP Senators are Backing Rubio—and It’s Important to Understand Why

If the Rubio vs. Cruz battle is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

Will the battle between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz come down to the support of their colleagues in Congress? Those colleagues hope so.

An article out today in Politico details how the rise of Ted Cruz in the polls (especially in Iowa) has prompted some prominent members of Congress to start leaning toward Marco Rubio as the preferred candidate of cross-spectrum Republicans. This lean in itself could be construed as a momentary win for Cruz, whose supporters couldn’t care less what Mitch McConnell has to say about much of anything these days, but it could spell trouble in the long run for the firebrand candidate.

The hesitance (and in some cases, outright refusal) to support Ted Cruz springs from a long history of various floor fights and back hall disputes over policies. Now, congressional Republicans are coming out in force against the possibility of a Cruz nomination, not because they agree with him on principle, but because they see Marco Rubio as the candidate who can win over new supporters in numbers that will place the GOP back in the White House.

From Politico:

Mainstream elected Republicans now see Cruz as a bigger threat than Donald Trump or Ben Carson to clinch the nomination — but equally damaging to their party’s chances of winning the White House and keeping the Senate next fall. Rubio would be a much stronger general election standard bearer, they believe.

“Marco is a true next-generation conservative,” said Steve Daines (R-Mont.), one of three senators who endorsed Rubio in November. “Every time there’s a debate, his stock goes up.”

Cruz winning the nomination “could happen with the angry situation we have out there” among the GOP electorate, said one Republican senator who hasn’t endorsed in the race but does not want Cruz.

Rubio’s GOP colleagues are looking to exploit what they see as Rubio’s advantage on national security in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks. They’re heaping praise on Rubio’s hawkish foreign policy views and panning Cruz’s attempt to find middle ground on national security. Asked about Rubio’s attacks on Cruz’s votes for the USA Freedom Act, which scaled back federal surveillance authorities, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas replied: “It’s always fair to question votes and hold people accountable.”

As for Cruz’s attempt to stake out a centrist position on national security between the party’s hawkish and libertarian poles, Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) said: “I don’t think you can split that baby.”

“Candidates running for national office who are articulating strong, firm, decisive positions that are well-thought-out are going to have an advantage,” said No. 3 Senate Republican John Thune of South Dakota. Rubio, he added, is “well positioned to make the arguments.”

Reactions to this passage will go one of two ways. The first, and most likely, is the The Establishment is Afraid of Ted route—which is true, but not in the way you think.

The second route—and the argument that I believe to be true—is one that recognizes that when it comes to leadership, group dynamic matters. Congressional Republicans are nervous about the possibility of a Ted Cruz candidacy because, from everything they’ve seen, Ted Cruz isn’t worried about how he is perceived by voters not already firmly in the conservative base.

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are two different men. Cruz’s ability to mobilize the base is unparalleled. What he did to David Dewhurst in Texas was one of the most well-run, successful political coups in modern politics. I was working in the Texas House of Representatives at the time, and it was amazing to see Cruz’s message slowly flip even the most seasoned staffers away from Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst; his message was fresh, and down to earth, and his base trusts him because of his fearless adherence to that message; on the flip side, that fearlessness gives pause to those who aren’t already familiar with conservative principles.

That’s the rub here. The Republicans whose views are represented in this article are worried that that pause will turn into either inaction, or turned backs on the part voters who don’t go for the immediate buy-in. They see Rubio as the candidate that those voters will take a second look at, because everything he has done so far suggests that he is begging for those voters to ask questions.

Of course, it’s not just about cloak room relationships; many of the members currently backing (if not endorsing) Rubio have paid careful attention to how his messaging affects their colleagues across the aisle:

But congressional Republicans say the truest indicator of Rubio’s strength is the abuse he’s getting from Democrats. They’ve been pounding him daily over missed votes and briefings, while dissecting his policy plans. Cruz, by comparison, has been getting kid-glove treatment, to the extent Democrats mention him at all in opposition dumps from the party apparatus and outside liberal groups.

Democrats for two years have held up Cruz as the de facto leader of the Republican Party, dubbing him “Speaker Cruz” after he prodded former Speaker John Boehner into a 2013 battle over Obamacare that shut down the federal government. Just this month, Democrats annoyed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell by insinuating he had agreed to take up a hard-line immigration bill heavily touted by Cruz. The idea that McConnell would take cues from Cruz after the Texas senator’s withering criticisms of the GOP leader was perceived by Republicans as a subtle Democratic attempt at boosting Cruz.

This isn’t puffery—Democrats are right to be worried about Rubio. Last month, Rubio gained major ground with younger voters who said they found him relatable. This flies directly in the face of the standard Democrat narrative that insists all Republicans are tone deaf old white men with access to family money. Rubio is none of those things, and thus terrifying.

Democrats also know that Marco Rubio is probably the candidate most likely to leverage his relatable nature across multiple platforms. Rubio’s online game is strong not only because his team understands how to market a well-made message, but because the source material has a completely different feel to it. While other candidates have struggled to perfect a sleeve roll, Rubio seems perfectly comfortable talking about pop culture and acting like a normal person (who happens to be running for President, which is not normal by any standard.)

This battle isn’t just a battle between two candidates; it’s a battle between two fierce perspectives on what the point of the 2016 election really is, and what our priorities are. Every cycle is a 10,000 yard stare into the void; what makes this one different is we have two factions of equally devoted conservatives who disagree on what we’d like to see on the other side.

In the case of Rubio v. Cruz, we may find out for the first time just how adept the current congressional delegation is at turning their desires into electoral reality.

Follow Amy on Twitter @ThatAmyMiller


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Cruz is the guy who can carry reform conservatism out in his presidency.

There is nothing “pastel” about his colors.

    snopercod in reply to Ragspierre. | November 30, 2015 at 7:02 pm

    It comes down to the age-old question: Do we support the candidate who best shares our philosophy, or the candidate who is most likely to get elected? In the past I’ve always supported the former in the primary, but they always seem to lose. I like Cruz a lot but he can’t implement the conservative agenda unless he is elected.

      tarheelkate in reply to snopercod. | November 30, 2015 at 7:41 pm

      The candidate who most shares my views doesn’t get to the general election, mostly, so I end up voting for the most conservative at that time.

      Milwaukee in reply to snopercod. | November 30, 2015 at 8:38 pm

      McCain and Romney were nominated under the “most likely to get elected” banner. In both cases, when given the choice between a Real socialist Democrat and a fake one, the Real socialist Democrat, Barack Hussein Obama, won.

      Ronald Reagan seemed to have the same problem. Be principled or be with the party establishment. Rubio is so with the Establishment. He isn’t sorry he was with the Gang of 8, he is sorry they weren’t successful. Rubio is, like President Obama, too narcissistic.

    herm2416 in reply to Ragspierre. | November 30, 2015 at 10:47 pm

    Head over to….they have extensive background research on Cruz.. You will find it quite interesting, particularly if you are a Cruz supporter,

      Milhouse in reply to herm2416. | December 1, 2015 at 2:46 am

      You mean the same nuthouse that decided “purple drank” is made with Arizona watermelon drink and skittles (it isn’t), and that “crazy ass cracker” meant a homosexual?

      inspectorudy in reply to herm2416. | December 2, 2015 at 5:23 pm

      I only read that swamp when they cover contentious criminal trials. Anything political is so over hyped and distorted that it is unreadable. Sundance, the author of the site, must wear a tin foil hat on his good days. If he isn’t careful he will end up like Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs. He banned everyone who said anything against his demented preachings. Try taking the side of an unarmed someone who has been shot 14 or 15 times by a cop and see what happens to your comment! I could write a dictionary on name calling from the hate I have received there.

Subotai Bahadur | November 30, 2015 at 5:29 pm

An article out today in Politico details how the rise of Ted Cruz in the polls (especially in Iowa) has prompted some prominent members of Congress to start leaning toward Marco Rubio as the preferred candidate of cross-spectrum Republicans.

“Cross-Spectrum Republicans”: (1)Those Republicans whose definition of compromise is to abandon any Conservative points and to seek a midpoint between the farthest Left and farthest Right DEMOCRAT position as defining a victory for themselves. (2) Those Republicans who believe that blatantly lying to their voters about what they will do, and doing just the opposite the moment the polls close constitutes good governance. Usually followed by berating the voters for believing what they had promised immediately before. (3) Republicans who believe that nominating an example of (1) or (2), or supporting such an example, will have absolutely no effect on turnout or electoral efforts by Conservatives. This point is going to be subject to definitive proof in any putative 2016 election. SEE Whigs.

Subotai Bahadur

    Juba Doobai! in reply to Subotai Bahadur. | November 30, 2015 at 11:22 pm

    You da man, Subotai Bahadur!

    Cruz has already outsmarted and beaten up Rubio. There is no choice to be made between Rubio and Cruz because Cruz stands way taller than Rubio ever could. All Rubio has going for him is a glib tongue and practiced answers.

    How to say “Obama” in Spanish? Rubio.

This same group has caved on every single issue that was important to the Conservatives who voted for them. Cruz is our voice and if these morons think that Rience Prebius or any of the Republican inner group is going to pick a winner just look at the last two. If any non-liberal cannot beat the biggest liar in history then we have no use for our party or the idiots that run it.

I almost stopped reading when I saw you were quoting Politico.
Is”t it cute that the left is so concerned and willing to help conservatives choose a candidate. No one in any race is more qualified than Cruz. Having said that if the republican that wins the nomination can’t beat a woman, that by all rights should be in jail, then this country is pretty much a lost cause.

    Valerie in reply to saywhut. | November 30, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    It’s worth it to know what Politico is saying, but it is also good to bear in mind that Politico is no Republican’s friend. They are out to defeat the Repubs, and they hop to bring strife amongst them.

    I would be happy to vote for either Cruz or Rubio, and I think either of them could win the Presidency, albeit with slightly different sets of voters.

      cantor4massat4 in reply to Valerie. | December 1, 2015 at 8:04 am

      “I would be happy to vote for either Cruz or Rubio, and I think either of them could win the Presidency, albeit with slightly different sets of voters.”

      Not only a different set of voters; a very different set of values. Rubio is not worthy of my vote. He’ll keep the one-party system we are now suffering under in good working order IMO.

I can’t think of a higher commendation for Cruz, or a better “tell” about Rubio. This is establishment vs. anti-establishment and it’s good we’re seeing it take place.

    Lady Penguin in reply to pesanteur. | November 30, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    Agree. It’s been obvious that there is a Rubio camp out there among the Establishment GOP. Of course, the quislings in the Senate are going to go against Cruz, he represents a threat to their business and usual and continued working with the Democrats.

    That said, Rubio has proven he can be rolled, that’s a character flaw, nothing is going to change the fact that he betrayed the grassroots folks who sent him to the Senate. Schummer is probably rubbing his hands with glee just thinking about Rubio being the elected, if Hillary doesn’t win.

I think they see Rubio as the candidate willing to bend back to open borders as he did with the Gang of Eight. As Europe turns the focus toward border control, Cruz becomes stronger.

Rubio is the establishment plan B to Jeb. It doesn’t matter to them if Cruz or Trump are stronger in the general … they want amnesty and cheap labor, and a more manageable candidate.

I’m with Coulter, that amnesty and open borders mean “Adios America”, and the middle class takes it on the chin as the immigrant flood makes us a full blown welfare state, banana republic.

Dream ticket. Book it y’all.

“congressional Republicans are coming out in force against the possibility of a Cruz nomination”

So this is a pro-Cruz story then. Good to know.

A silly piece of wishful thinking by Everett and Kim in Politico. The premise makes no sense unless the authors address Trump somehow losing the nomination. Everett and Kim only use the word “Trump” twice in the entire article. They magically wave the elephant Trump away by saying “mainstream elected Republicans” do not see Trump winning the nomination. Now that’s credibility! That certainly convinces me! Trump should fold his tent right now.

Perhaps for their next article, they will discuss the almost as relevant question of O’Malley vs. Graham in the main election.

    IrateNate in reply to CameoRed. | December 1, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    Trump will become his own worst enemy soon enough…as will Carson. This should leave us with the choice outlined here – RINO v Conservative, Rubio v Cruz.

Cruz has given a clear and good reason for his often stand alone opposition to business as usual in the senate.

because Rubio is a total RINO squish whereas Cruz occasionally shows sighs of having a spine…

#Trump2016, just because the RNC hates him.

Okay, we get it — Cruz is a forbidding firebrand and Rubio is a mellow uniter. But these tired simplifications rehashed by the notorious spinners at Politico are just that, and ignore the infinite variations of issues, character and presentation, as well as the times we live in. In fact, that Trump is leading so impressively would point to the opposite premise – that people wish to be confronted with passionately principled even shocking iconoclasm in their candidates. I’m afraid that would leave Rubio, despite your best efforts, in the dust.

MaggotAtBroadAndWall | November 30, 2015 at 7:15 pm

Cruz took his Senate seat in January, 2013. By March, the 2008 Republican nominee for President and current Senator, John McRINO, had decided to publicly ridicule Cruz and call him a “wacko bird”. Also, during the same approximate time frame Cruz asked Chuck Hagel some pointed questions during Hagel’s confirmation hearing for Sec. of Defense. After that hearing, a new media narrative emerged comparing Cruz to Joe McCarthy. I can’t prove it, but I’d speculate someone close to McRINO, perhaps a staffer whose job is to feed crapola to the media, helped push the McCarthy comparison. The establishment recognized Cruz was a man with talent, a man of principle, a man whose conservatism is too strong for the Chamber of Crony Capitalism, and they set out to define him as a crazed McCarthyite to clip his ambitions. All within less than 90 days of being sworn in.

Next came GWB. The man hasn’t said one word about Obama in seven years since leaving office. Not a peep. When he finally decides to talk politics, he unloads on Cruz. He said at a Jeb! fundraiser a few weeks ago about Cruz, ‘I just don’t like the guy’. Cruz was a loyal GWB soldier who worked on his presidential campaigns and helped get him elected. And GWB reciprocates by taking a dump on him. But he still hasn’t said a word about Obama.

Then last week, I flipped the remote control to Bloomberg News for about 60 seconds while the John Heilemann and Mark Halperin show was on. I heard Heilemann ask Al Hunt if anybody as unlikeable as Ted Cruz could win the presidency. Hunt said something like, ‘Well, Nixon ran on a national ticket four times. Anything is possible’. So, in less than 60 seconds one journalist starts with the premise that Cruz is “unlikeable”, and the other journalist not only swallows it whole but compares Cruz to Nixon, a man the media has spent the past 45 years conditioning the public to despise.

So, if you are keeping score: A one time Republican presidential nominee and colleague of his in the Senate compared him to a wackobird; a two term Republican president said he “just doesn’t like him”, and the media has compared him to McCarthy and to Nixon.

Obama crushed Romney 82%-28% on the question “cares more about people like me”. The Republican establishment has been on a tear since almost the first day Cruz was inaugurated to define him as unlikeable and, by extension, uncaring, and by extension unelectable. If only they were this nasty against Democrats.

I think it is as much about McRINO’s bruised ego as anything. McRINO has spent 35 years in the Senate, and he doesn’t like it that Cruz is not only always the smartest man in any room he enters but Cruz isn’t going to play by the old rules. He refused to be patted on the head and told to wait his turn. Cruz refused to do their bidding for them. I think McRINO still hates conservatives because his amnesty bill that he partnered on with his good friend Ted Kennedy went down in flames in 2007. Rubio was willing to be patted on the head and do their bidding and signed onto McRINO’s amnesty bill that failed a second time. So now the old bulls in the Senate are going to reward Rubio because he knew his proper place. Cruz bucked the establishment and now they are holding it against him.

Just my two cents.

    Mags, a well spent two cents.

    I also found it telling (disappointing) that GWB didn’t like how Cruz was hiding behind Trump. To me this says Cruz was an early planned target and that Trump has gotten in the way of taking him out. That is what I like most about the Trump campaign.

    cantor4massat4 in reply to MaggotAtBroadAndWall. | December 1, 2015 at 8:09 am

    McCain might not like Cruz because he fought the Gang of 8 and won.

    I have also noted, as I know many of you have, that FNC and needless to say all other media, ALWAYS either omit any reference to Cruz or if they do, make a negative reference. The Rubio supporters like to paint Cruz as a liar about his true positions on the big issues but all you have to do is look at his actions in the Senate. He has fought Reid and McConnell on many issues and has even shut down the government over one. Compare that to Rubio. Crickets! Make no mistake about my sentiments, I will vote for Rubio or ANY Republican who is the nominee.

This article is just more embarrassing pro-Rubio puffery. It recycles Politico, a reality-bending narrative dissimulation machine which has no other purpose than as a conduit for Leftist stories to secure legitimacy for MSM re-publication and to pretend neutrality to spin deceits with some authority (which the writer has totally fallen for). Two, it reports nothing new — just tired truths that RINOs fear and loath Cruz and see Rubio as the standard-fare mush who will, according to their perennially dashed delusions, win the middle and the presidency but not for any higher purpose than power and management of decline. There are no hard facts to support any of its various assertions, including its twist on the axiom that the most formidable candidate is the one the Left telegraphs they most fear and that we’re supposed to believe this is Rubio.

    ijustwanttovote in reply to pesanteur. | November 30, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    I’ll be glad when I no longer have to read Amy Miller’s writings on LI.

      Just because a thought came into your head doesn’t mean you need to share that thought.

      Geez, so didn’t article if you see her byline! Easy enough, without having to be mean about it.

        Juba Doobai! in reply to herm2416. | November 30, 2015 at 11:38 pm

        He’s Commented and you are ascribing to it a negative emotional value that is intended to shut him up. Because Amy’s leaving does that mean she’s suddenly above criticism? I don’t think so. We have not been making blunt remarks about Amy’s writing because we dislike her. Rather, we wanted her to use her head and engage in critical thinking. Ijwtv remark expresses the frustration that many of us feel that nothing made a dent in Amy’s arrogance to push her to become a better thinker and writer.

    Slight change of pace from Trump-bashing at least.

“GOP Senators are Backing Rubio—and It’s Important to Understand Why”

Because they are backstabbing statists that would rather have Shrillary than Cruz. They are only interested in how much personal gain will fall their way.

So here’s the 800 pound elephant in the room. Trump’s candidacy is based upon the fact that he is an outsider, it is an anti establishment candidacy. We are supposed to believe that if he falls, his supporters are going to readilly fall in line to vote for the establishment butt boy Rubio? I don’t think so. I’m a conservative, not a Trump guy, and I don’t think I’d vote for Rubio, I really don’t.

If the majority of Senate republicans support Rubio, I’ll stick with Cruz.

“Marco is a true next-generation conservative,”


Amnesty is a conservative position? Seriously??

We need to clean house in the Senate. Keep Jeff Sessions, Mike Lee and maybe a few others, and replace ALL the rest.

    Lady Penguin in reply to Aarradin. | December 1, 2015 at 3:19 am

    the author couldn’t help but try to get another plug in for Rubio. It’s clear the Establishment GOP doesn’t understand that the more the Quisling Republicans go against Cruz, the more support he gains from the people.

    Rubio demonstrated he was all too willing to throw away his grassroots support and betray them. A character flaw.

    Read headlines yesterdays indicating the thought the pro-lifers were too “radical.”

    I’m not going to vote for another Establishment GOP…

Amy, Both Rubio and Cruz are 44, separated by only a few months. Why (older) senators like Rubio is that he came to the Senate seeking their approval. He’s already proven that. Cruz, on the other hand, came to turn over tables in their temple. (Since I know you, you might want to look that one up.) By any other measurement, Cruz is at least 20 years older than Rubio, that’s why they don’t like him.

No thanks, we’ve already had 8 years of weak limp wristed liberal rule. Jeb Light is not the answer.

It’s Cruz or lose IMO.

but because they see Marco Rubio as the candidate who can win over new supporters in numbers that will place the GOP back in the White House

Wait, these are the same people who said in 1996 we needed Bob Dole because he could win? Well they were right…

Wait, sorry.

Then in 2008, they were dead in with a winner like McCain…scratch that.

But man, talk about on the money in 2012…

Forgive me but the fact the RINO establishment is pushing Rubio, the man who stabbed his Tea Party backers in the back by joining the old white men in the Gang of Eight tells me enough.

Back in 2008 Mark Styne, when subbing on Limbaugh’s show, said it best, “American doesn’t need a compromise, they need a choice.”

With Jeb! vs Hillary, same difference, one I’ll smells as good as dung and one reeks as bad a dung. Rubio, slightly less bad. But with Cruz, at least there is the chance of a change in direction for this country.

Speaking as a libertarian leaning Republican, my conscious won’t allow me to vote again for an establishment Republican such as Rubio. As noted multiple times over the last 20 years, supporting a ‘moderate’ Republican creates a losing campaign, anyone with a progressive/liberal outlook will vote for the real deal rather than a wannabe liberal Republican…and ‘moderate’ Republicans are nothing more than conservative Democrats who have lost ‘their’ party to the Marxists.

Given the state of the Republican party, in which conservatives are finally finding their voice and pushing back against the corporatist elitists currently running the GOP, I don’t think I’ll be alone in not voting for a Rubio, Christie, Bush or Trump ticket.