Ted Cruz has built his Senate career and presidential campaign on his willingness to stick it to the Republican establishment. And now that he’s gaining momentum in the primary, his many GOP nemeses in Congress are returning the favor by quietly coalescing behind Marco Rubio.
Senior Republican senators who’ve clashed with Cruz for years have had nothing but nice things to say about Rubio even as he’s dissed — and largely ditched — his day job in the Capitol. Just this month, Rubio has racked up endorsements from nine members of Congress, compared with two for early GOP front-runner Jeb Bush. More House endorsements for Rubio are set to roll out in December, according to campaign sources, and several GOP senators said privately they expect their colleagues to get behind Rubio once the GOP field thins.
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.
Cornyn, Thune and Coats have not endorsed in the presidential primary, and lawmakers interviewed for this story said many senior Republicans do not want to embarrass long-shot presidential hopeful Lindsey Graham by endorsing Rubio while the South Carolina senator is in the race. They’re also aware that endorsements from top GOP lawmakers at this point in the primary wouldn’t help Rubio’s cause with the Republican base.
The Conservative Solutions Super PAC portrays him as an outsider who took on the establishment: