Those close to Sen. Ted Cruz indicate the Texas Republican wants to run for president again. But whether he does, and how he does, will depend on what Donald Trump’s aspirations are in 2024.
Allan Smith is a political reporter for NBC News. He told Texas Standard that early polling suggests Texas’ junior Republican Senator trails former President Donald Trump and other potential 2024 GOP candidates, like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: You indicate Senator Cruz would not run for president against Donald Trump again. Could you say a little bit more about the thinking behind that?
Allan Smith: A gentleman close to the Texas senator told me that if Trump’s in the race, it’s highly unlikely that Cruz runs in 2024. But he’s extremely interested. He gave an interview in December talking about how he’s in the best position to win the next Republican nomination, just based on historical trends, having finished second last time. And when he chatted with me, he said the decision is going to be made after the former president decides on running for president, but he did not expressly rule it out. If Trump does decide to make a second term bid.
I guess that’s a big part of the headline here – that Ted Cruz still wants to be president. I mean, that’s the sense that you’re getting from the folks that you’re talking with on the campaign trail and out there in the hustings, I suppose.
Absolutely. And he’s made it clear that his goal is to make another presidential bid. He would love to be president. He told me he is comfortable in the Senate if it is the last job he ever has. He has accepted that after 2016. But he definitely wants to make another run at the White House, and he’s not really keeping it a secret
Well, I guess the follow-on to that is whether Cruz could have a successful presidential campaign if Trump were not to try to run. I mean, he’s not polling very well generally among Republicans. He called the Capitol insurrection a terrorist attack, which is not in line with the way a lot of members of his party are referring to that day. And there was that time he went to Cancun during that deadly winter storm, and blackouts here in the Lone Star State about this time last year. So how does he see that adding up to a successful campaign bid?
After 2016, he basically did a full about-face after really locking horns with Trump on the campaign trail and becoming sort of this leading defender of his in Congress. He would almost have to experience some sort of surge over how Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, is being discussed today. Because most folks who are paying close attention to this at this point really see DeSantis as the leading alternative to Trump. And if Trump were not to run, then DeSantis would likely go into 2024 as the frontrunner.
But you mentioned Cancun. You mentioned his walking back of terrorism remarks about January 6. Those were actually two incidents that really kind of blew up on him. The Cancun trip – as folks told me – was really kind of an unforced error. And it was bad press that he just did not need to have happen to him. And the terrorist remark. He had made that more than a dozen times before the anniversary of January 6, but when he said it one day before, he was just getting reamed and conservative media.
Of course, all this, as you report, hangs on whether or not Donald Trump runs for president again. What are you hearing? What’s the likelihood he will do that?
Most people think it is almost a foregone conclusion at this point that he is going to run. He seems to be hinting at it ever more strongly in his public events, and he is looking to kind of ramp up his rally schedule as the 2022 midterms near. I still think there’s definitely a chance that he does not run in 2024. And you’ve got folks like Cruz who kind of have these campaigns in waiting that are ready to go if something were to happen where the former president’s not running. But at this point, it looks exceedingly likely that he’s going to be mounting another campaign in a couple of years.