Ted Cruz has gone quiet after his daring convention speech, firing off fundraising pleas for his 2018 Senate campaign but otherwise keeping a low profile as analysts say he does the hard work of rebuilding his political brand.
He’s stuck his neck out, both personally and online, to boost several conservatives in the Cruz mold — only to see them lose their primaries.
And Mr. Cruz has fired off statements, both on Twitter and through his Senate office, pursuing some of his favorite policy issues, including bashing President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran and demanding an end to sanctuary cities. But the candidate, who was a frequent fixture on the airwaves for much of the previous year, has been strikingly absent after he was jeered off the stage in Cleveland two weeks ago.
Neither his Senate office nor his campaign responded to requests for comment about the senator’s activities.
“It does seem that he’s gone to ground,” said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University.
Mr. Jillson said the lower-key schedule is to be expected after the long primary, and particularly with Mr. Cruz’s day job in the Senate on hold as the chamber is off on a seven-week vacation.
Mr. Cruz’s one public appearance was to present the key to an accessible home to a wounded veteran, Jack Zimmerman.
Instead of being out and about, Mr. Cruz appears to be worried about his campaign bottom line, firing off a couple of pleas to supporters to pony up contributions ahead of his re-election race — which isn’t for another two years.
Immediately after his convention speech, Mr. Cruz seemed to sense a vulnerability after several high-profile Democrats signaled they may take a look at challenging him in 2018.
“This November, it is critical we elect conservatives up and down the ballot in order to prevent a liberal takeover of Washington D.C. But our opponents are already making plans to defeat us, so we cannot afford to wait to engage until 2018,” Mr. Cruz said in his appeal.
Just weeks ago Mr. Cruz was considered one of the GOP’s top powerbrokers and an early candidate for the next presidential election. He won nearly 8 million votes in the GOP’s primary this time, which was good for about 25 percent of the total votes cast — and second only to eventual winner Donald Trump’s 14 million.
But Mr. Cruz squandered much of his good will by showing up at Mr. Trump’s coronation last month and delivering a speech — then refusing to endorse the man who bettered him.
Analysts said Mr. Cruz could have followed the path of Sen. Marco Rubio, who didn’t show up in person but did speak by video, fully endorsing Mr. Trump. Or he could have mimicked Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who, though his state was hosting the convention, chose to stay away from the hall altogether.
Instead, Mr. Cruz tried to channel Ronald Reagan, delivering a speech meant to recreate the 1976 extemporaneous remarks Reagan delivered at that year’s convention, looking back from the future on the choices the country made in that election.
But where Reagan was cheered, and left some delegates to that convention wondering whether they’d nominated the wrong man, Republicans in the hall in Cleveland had no such second thoughts.
“I was shocked by his open rebellion at the RNC,” said Mike Jones, 26, who voted for the Texan in Virginia’s primary but was at a Trump rally in Ashburn this week. Mr. Jones said the convention speech didn’t turn him against Mr. Cruz, who he still views as a champion of the Constitution
But Mr. Jones said Mr. Cruz has ruined his reputation with many other Republicans.
Steve Meyer, also at the Trump rally, said he was a fan of Mr. Cruz before the presidential election, but his opinion of the senator worsened during the primary campaign and hit rock bottom when he delivered his convention speech.
“He could have been the bigger man. But he had an ax to grind,” said Mr. Meyer.
Mr. Jillson, the SMU political scientist, said the speech was a miscalculation.
“He thought he was reliving one of Ronald Reagan’s great moments, and that it would establish him as the conservative standard-bearer going forward, but the hall didn’t buy it, nor did the country,” he said.
Perhaps the worst signal came later in the night, when Mr. Cruz tried to visit the suite of mega-GOP donor Sheldon Adelson but was denied entry.
That underscores the challenges going forward for Mr. Cruz, who must repair a lot of bridges if he’s to win re-election in 2018.
“Undoubtedly he’s working the phones, he’s talking to people, he’s trying to reassure them, he’s trying to win them back,” Mr. Jillson said.
National Review reported that Mr. Cruz organized a conference call with donors the weekend after the convention speech to try to soften the lingering effects of his remarks. But National Review said donors weren’t biting, with one saying Mr. Cruz alienated most of his supporters.
In the wake of his speech, Mr. Cruz has still been active on Twitter, including on Wednesday attacking the Iran nuclear deal and repeatedly blasting so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
And he’s dipped his toe back into elections.
Just days after his convention speech, Mr. Cruz appeared in Georgia to campaign with state Sen. Mike Crane, who The Atlanta Journal-Constitution described as a state-level version of Mr. Cruz. The crowd at the Crane event gave Mr. Cruz a standing ovation when he mentioned his convention speech, which he called his “little-noticed talk,” the paper reported.
Still, it was for naught: Mr. Crane was defeated in a GOP primary runoff for a seat in Congress just days after Mr. Cruz campaigned with him.
And then, over the last few days, Mr. Cruz went to bat for Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a Kansas Republican and close ally in both stances and strategy. Both had been harshly critical of their party’s congressional leaders.
But Mr. Cruz’s backing was ineffective, as Mr. Huelskamp lost his primary Tuesday to an establishment-backed Republican, Roger Marshall.