Ted Cruz probably wishes he was still on the presidential stump, in Nevada and North Carolina, and other swing states.
Instead, he's using the senate's August break to tour Texas: speak at a chamber of commerce breakfast in San Antonio; a roundtable discussion in Tyler; tours of the Johnson Spaceflight Center near Houston and Space-X project in McGregor, southwest of Waco; and other stops including Amarillo, El Paso, Laredo, Abilene, Lubbock, and Dallas.
You get the picture. Having had to bank the fire of his presidential ambitions until 2020, amid hopes that his nemesis Donald Trump loses to Democrat Hillary Clinton this year, Cruz at least wants to hang onto his bully pulpit: his seat in the U.S. Senate, which is up in 2018. No matter that most of his fellow senators don't like him.
Already, Democrats are at least idly looking at the race. And a Republican congressman – Michael McCaul, who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security – is reportedly being encouraged by top Republicans who don't like Cruz to take him on.
Democrats mentioned are Joaquin Castro and Wendy Davis.
Of the politically ambitious Castro twins of San Antonio, Joaquin is the one who is a congressman. Twin, Julian, former mayor of San Antonio, is President Obama's secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
At the Democratic National Convention in late July, Congressman Castro indicated an interest in the senate seat. "I'm going to take a look at it in 2018," he said in a CBS interview.
"I’ll take a look at that and other opportunities," he added. "I’ve never been somebody that said in two years I’ve absolutely got to run for Senate or governor, but I will take a look at it."
Should he run for the senate, however, he would be relinquishing his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives – as would McCaul if he runs. Although Texas allows an officeholder to run for president or vice-president while also seeking re-election, that doesn't apply to a race for the senate -- or governor.
Davis, the former state senator and city council member from Fort Worth, was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2014.
Her national notoriety for her 2013 filibuster against an anti-abortion bill still buzzed during her appearance at the Democratic National Convention, even though she had lost the governor's race to Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott by 20 points.
Davis's latest political venture is starting an Austin-based organization called "Deeds Not Words," to help young Democratic women become active in the gender equality movement.
When Davis, who's been a surrogate for Hillary Clinton's campaign for the past few months, was asked at the convention if she might run for Cruz's senate seat, she didn't rule it out.
"I don't know. I honestly don't know," she told the Washington Examiner. She smiled, and added, "We'll see what the future holds."
Davis later told the Texas Tribune, "Is it something I'm mulling? Nope."
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Democrats' Dream . . . There's growing hope among Democrats that the impossible could happen: that Donald Trump is such a heavy-as-lead cross for the Republicans to bear that Texas could turn blue again.
Democratic presidential nominee Tim Kaine expressed that hope during a recent Austin appearance.
Speaking to a sweat-drenched crowd in a sun-baked warehouse that's a Democratic phone bank headquarters, Kaine said the presidential ticket hopes to carry a state it hasn't since 1976.
"This team, the Clinton-Kaine team, we are serious about Texas," Kaine said. "We are very serious because we know the kind of work that you do."
He acknowledged that it wouldn't be easy, without going so far as to say it would be a miracle if the Democrats won the state, as most observers say.
“Texas Democrats know tough,” Kaine said. “This is not a territory where it’s always smooth sailing.”
There used to be an adage that no Democrat could be elected president without carrying Texas. And indeed, Republicans carried Texas in 1980, 1984, and 1988, and won the presidency.
But in 1992, Democrat Bill Clinton – with the help of Ross H. Perot's maverick Independent candidacy – denied George Bush the elder's bid for a second term, despite losing Texas. Clinton again won without Texas in 1996.
And Democrat Barack Obama won without Texas in 2008, and again in 2012.
It has now become the case that the Republicans can't win without Texas, which now has the second-most electoral votes of any state – 38.
Less than three months now until the election, and it will be very interesting to see whether the Democrats even come close to carrying Texas.
Not to mention what it might – or might not -- mean for Cruz's ability to hang onto his senate seat in 2018.
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