The most hated man in Congress: Ted Cruz's laughable difficulty in landing endorsements from Senate colleagues

Cruz has 2 measly backers from the Senate — and it was a rocky road to even land them

By Sean Illing

Published March 17, 2016 6:45PM (EDT)

Ted Cruz at CPAC, March 4, 2016.   (Jeff Malet,
Ted Cruz at CPAC, March 4, 2016. (Jeff Malet,

How someone is viewed by their colleagues says a lot about them. The same is true of a politician and his or her constituents. Normally, but not always, if a politician has consistently high favorability ratings at home over a long period of time, you can assume they've done an adequate job – in small, gerrymandered districts, this is less true. Sometimes approval numbers are simply a reflection of an indifferent or uninformed voting base, people responding positively by default. But more often than not you get a glimpse of someone's character by consulting those who know them best. Again, it's not the whole story, but a reliable guide nevertheless.

Enter Ted Cruz.

Contrary to popular belief, Ted Cruz isn't especially popular in his home state of Texas. Even before he launched his gaseous presidential campaign, a University of Texas poll found that Cruz's favorability numbers were sinking. 29 percent of respondents said they had a “very unfavorable” opinion of Cruz, with 25 percent reporting “very favorable.” Given his relatively narrow victory over Trump in the recent Texas primary, one assumes those numbers are slightly worse now.

But if you really want to know how unlikable Cruz is, look no further his senate colleagues. It's something of an open secret that Cruz is the least liked member of Congress (He's also, incidentally, the least liked Republican nominee – in a field that includes Donald Trump). Since he was elected, Cruz has spent the majority of his time performing in front of cameras for a national audience. It's as though he became a U.S. Senator merely to campaign for president. His non-accomplishments in the senate certainly support this conclusion.

In any case, Cruz has made a habit of speechifying and calling other Republicans fake conservatives. He's pursued pointless roll-call votes, threatened to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding, called everyone he serves with the "Washington Cartel," and at one point accused his Republican colleagues of conspiring with the evil Democrats to avoid tarnishing the nation's credit rating.

Naturally, this kind of behavior has irked Cruz's co-workers, which is why he's struggling to find someone who works in Washington to endorse his candidacy. "What was in his [Cruz] best interest was labeling the rest of us as establishment," said Republican Senator Dan Coats. "It kind of undermines that narrative if he asks now for endorsements." Indeed it does, but Cruz will nonetheless need his fellow Republicans to unite around him in order to challenge Trump.

At long last, Cruz recently found the first brave soul on Capitol Hill to back him: Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah. “Ted Cruz has been a tireless defender of the Constitution and the founding principles that have made this the greatest country the world has ever seen,” Lee said in a statement. “Ted is a leader with a proven record of fighting for our conservative values and for the issues that matter most to Americans.”

This is about as milquetoast an endorsement as you'll ever read or hear. Lee could swap Cruz's name with virtually any other candidate in any other election and it would sound equally compelling. Desperate and running out of time, though, Cruz was happy to accept the praise: “I couldn't be more humbled by Mike's endorsement. He has been a tremendous friend and I am deeply honored by his support. No one has fought harder to restore the rule of law, and end cronyism, and level the playing field for millions of Americans.”

As the establishment grows increasingly terrified of Trump, a few more intrepid Senators might throw their support behind Cruz. But don't be fooled: none of it is sincere - they know him too well to like him. This is about Trump, not Cruz. That Cruz has lobbied for over a year for endorsements from his colleagues and has such paltry support tells you everything you need to know about him. As Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham admitted, “It shows that people see Ted's campaign as becoming the most viable. I just think he's becoming the most viable alternative to Trump.” Which is why, as of this writing, Graham has done an about-face and officially endorsed Ted Cruz.

There will be other, equally unenthusiastic endorsements to follow, and they'll be just as hollow as Lee's and Graham's.

Sean Illing

Sean Illing is a USAF veteran who previously taught philosophy and politics at Loyola and LSU. He is currently Salon's politics writer. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Read his blog here. Email at

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Elections 2016 Lindsay Graham Mike Lee Republican Party Ted Cruz