Cruz’s call for unity falls on deaf ears

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 7:15 AM

But it wasn’t clear whether it was working. In WA and across the country, many mainstream Republicans who despise Trump – including many supporters of former candidate Marco Rubio – are still declining maintain the senator from Texas, whose antagonism toward GOP leaders has been the centerpiece of his political rise.

Cruz’s call for unity falls on deaf ears

After his most convincing triumph yet over Donald Trump in Wisconsin, Ted Cruz sought on Wednesday to shed his reputation as a divisive bomb-thrower and position himself as the candidate who can bring the Republican Party together.

But it wasn’t clear whether it was working. In WA and across the country, many mainstream Republicans who despise Trump – including many supporters of former candidate Marco Rubio – are still declining maintain the senator from Texas, whose antagonism toward GOP leaders has been the centerpiece of his political rise.

The lukewarm reception highlighted the difficulty Cruz faces in recasting himself as a bridge builder after years of bridge burning. Many top Republicans stay strongly opposed to both Cruz and Trump and keep out hope that long-shot candidate John Kasich, or maybe another Republican not in the race, can somehow clinch the nomination.

“I think stopping Donald Trump has got to be the no one goal, and to rally around Ted Cruz in these future primaries I think is important,” said billionaire GOP donor Frank VanderSloot, who backed Rubio. “But neither I nor very many of the people I know are enamored with Ted Cruz, and I think that everyone is hoping it's a brokered conference where we can have a third choice.”

Cruz’s attempts to broaden his appeal beyond evangelical Christians and tea-party activists will be crucial in the upcoming slate of Northeastern primaries, beginning on April nineteen in New York. A Monmouth Univ poll released Wednesday showed Cruz trailing Trump and Kasich in the Empire State.

Addressing reporters at a Dominican-Chinese restaurant in the Bronx, Cruz underscored the unity message he delivered in Milwaukee after his primary win.

“We saw Republicans arrive together and unite, stand united, and really that’s what this election is all about. It's about unity. If we arrive together, we’re going to win. If we stay divided, we'll not, and I couldn't be more encouraged,” he said.

In recent weeks, Cruz has struck a more inclusive tone. He reached a new register in his Milwaukee triumph speech by seeking to draw a contrast with Trump’s antagonism.

“Wisconsin has lit a candle guiding the way forward. Tonight, we once again have hope for our future. Tonight is about unity, and tonight is about hope,” he said.

But the words didn’t move support on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

“I have my own town-hall meeting, and I quite frankly didn’t look any of it,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, a former Rubio backer who said he's number plans to create another endorsement.

While Cruz has won the support of five former candidates, Rubio has held out. So have many of the donors and elected executive who backed him.

Cruz has tapped former U. S. senator Phil Gramm of TX to head up his outreach on Capitol Hill. Since his two thousand thirteen arrival in the Senate, Cruz has ruffled feathers on both sides of the Capitol, openly plotting against Republican leadership on a series of issues and helping force a government shutdown in 2013.

Gramm said racking up endorsements hasn't been his main goal because they don’t imply as much this late in the race. Instead, his target has been opening lines of communication and working toward crafting a platform that Republicans up and down the ballot can running on this fall.

“My message hasn't been what we wish from you, but what we wish to do with you,” said Gramm, who said he's spoken with House and Senate Republican leaders.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, one of just two senators backing Cruz, is also trying to cultivate relationships on the Hill. He's making a concerted effort to woo Rubio for an endorsement, for example.

But in a chamber where Cruz has irked his colleagues, the firebrand Texan is proving to be a hard sell.

Get Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, a freshman conservative whose first choice for president was Rubio and his more optimistic tone.

As the CO Republican Party finalizes delegate selections this weekend, Gardner’s support might be a enormous boost to Cruz, but number such endorsement is coming.

“Any nominee is going to have to earn my support, just love they’ll have to earn the support of the delegates this weekend in Colorado,” he said.

Lee played down Cruz’s lack of support in the Senate, arguing that those who supported candidates who have dropped out may be “gun shy.”

“They have swung and missed once or in some cases multiple times, and they're not necessarily anxious to leap on board,” said Lee.

Sen. David Perdue, R-Georgia, has spoken directly with Trump and with Cruz but said he's number plans to endorse anytime soon and is trying to obtain the presidential candidates to focus their campaigns on the national debt. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, said he's not heard from the remaining candidates or their surrogates and suggested that they shouldn’t bother trying to win endorsements from Washington.

“Let’s face it, Senate endorsements haven’t had much sway,” Cassidy said, an indirect reference to the powerful support that Rubio and former FL Gov Jeb Bush had in the chamber.

In Wisconsin, Cruz showed an skill to widen his support beyond his natural base. Exit poll data showed that he won a plurality of non-born-again or evangelical Christians, for example.

With April twenty-six primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, PA and Rhode Island - states where Republicans tend to be more moderate than Cruz - he'll face new tests soon.

NY could be particularly challenging for Cruz, who's clashed with officials there.

“I’m not going to create any endorsement before the primary,” said Rep. Peter T. King, R-New York, a frequent Cruz foe. “But I've high regard for Kasich, number regard for Cruz, and Trump is a work in progress.”

Tim Pawlenty, the former MN Gov and two thousand twelve presidential candidate, wrote in an email that Cruz’s win in WI “gives him momentum and an increased likelihood of a contested conference at which he'd have some advantages.”

But Pawlenty, who was a Rubio supporter, added that he's “not yet decided what I might do following in this race.”

MN media mogul Stanley Hubbard, a top GOP donor, said he gave to many candidates, including Cruz, and hit his maximum level of candidate giving allowed below the law. Although he's permitted to give unlimited sums to super PACs – such as those backing Cruz – he said he'll wait until the nomination process is done before cutting any more checks.

“I was never a huge supporter of Mr. Cruz, but he’s been a gentleman,” Hubbard said.

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