Alex Isenstadt, whose Politico article "Inside the GOP’s rescue mission for Ted Cruz" revealed that the party fears the Texas incumbent may lose his tight race against Democrat Beto O'Rourke, told CNN today that "the big question" in the state is whether Trump's support can put Cruz over the top in the race for Senate.
"It's still going to be very hard for Beto O'Rourke to win the race. Cruz is still the favorite," albeit by single digits, Isenstadt said. "It's closer than it should be and you have the Republican cavalry coming in and supporting Cruz and doing whatever they can do get him over the finish line."
Host Jim Sciutto noted that "Trump's support worked in the primaries," and in fact the majority of the president's choices have won those races. But whether they succeed in the general has been a different question. Two of Trump's picks, Alabama's Roy Moore and Pennsylvania's Rick Saccone failed to win election, and some of his other preferred candidates like Corey Stewart of Virginia and Ron DeSantis of Florida have espoused extremist views that may alienate more moderate voters. Trump's Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, recently described Cruz and candidates like him as "unlikeable" in audio captured by the New York Times of a closed door meeting with GOP donors.
"This is the big question in a lot of these Senate races coming up this fall," said Isenstadt. "The White House people and the people close to Trump are betting is that Democrats are enthused and they're gonna come out no matter what."
Tipping the scales for Cruz, who was given the nickname "Lyin' Ted" by then-candidate Trump, may require strong Republican turnout. "To a great extent," Isenstadt said, "Trump is the best motivator to get them out to the polls in November."
But with Democratic activists using Trump's 2016 campaign taunts to their own advantage, running billboards highlighting the president's claim that Cruz "accomplished nothing" for Texans, that question appears to be open.
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