What's the difference between endorsing a candidate and merely supporting one?
The question is the source of some confusion in the Texas Republican primaries, where the state party’s biggest star, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, is maintaining a distinction between endorsing a candidate and just supporting or speaking favorably of one as he tries to sway voter behavior.
Cruz has officially endorsed five Republican primary candidates in Texas. He has also publicly praised several others, most of whom have carefully touted his praise to supporters while avoiding the word “endorsed.”
“I’m honored and humbled to share with you that Ted Cruz has announced his support of my campaign,” Don Huffines, a Republican in an expensive primary fight with state Sen. John Carona of Dallas, wrote in an email to supporters Monday.
Of Huffines, Cruz said, “Don is not a career politician, and he stands passionately for individual liberty and limited government.”
Cruz bestowed similar praise earlier this month on Konni Burton, a first-time candidate for the Fort Worth-based Senate seat currently held by Democrat Wendy Davis. Yet he also added, “I'm proud to endorse my good friend Konni for State Senate” and “I urge voters in her district to support her." On Tuesday, in an email to supporters, Burton described Cruz’s endorsement as “a shot of adrenaline for our campaign."
Along with Huffines, Cruz has publicly praised — though has stopped short of endorsing — several other Republican candidates in Texas, including state Sen. Ken Paxton of McKinney, a candidate for attorney general; Katrina Pierson, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas; and state Rep. Van Taylor of Plano, a candidate for state Senate.
Paxton has centered one of his TV ads on Cruz’s praise, and Pierson has featured Cruz’s description of her as “an utterly fearless principled conservative” prominently on her campaign website and on social media. (Further confusing matters: Cruz’s father, Rafael, has officially endorsed Pierson.)
Cruz has also spoken favorably about several members of the Texas Legislature running for re-election, including state Sen. Donna Campbell of New Braunfels and state Reps. Matt Krause of Fort Worth, Jonathan Stickland of Bedford, Charles Perry of Lubbock and Matt Schaefer of Tyler.
An email Cruz sent out to Texas supporters on Tuesday marked a clearer line between official endorsements and "support." In the email, which sported the subject line "Have you voted?", Cruz encouraged Texans to back the people he has officially endorsed: Burton, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, and Justices Jeff Brown, Jeff Boyd and Phil Johnson. No other candidates or races were mentioned.
The distinction suggests Cruz considers an endorsement of a candidate as different from a public show of support. He has suggested in the past that he plans to be careful with whom he endorses.
"I’ve never liked it when Washington insiders try to pick winners and losers in Republican primaries,” Cruz told The Texas Tribune in December. “I think primaries should be decided by the grassroots in each state. … I’m going to leave it to the voters of Texas to make that decision.”
Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said the senator makes decisions about endorsements on "a case-by-case basis" and did not have concerns that voters may be confused about which candidates he has endorsed.
"We've been straightforward, and Texas Republican primary voters are informed, active and engaged in the political process," Frazier said. "They know the difference. They take elections seriously and value the power of their vote."
Noticably absent from Cruz's endorsement list: his fellow U.S. senator from Texas, Republican John Cornyn. In his bid for re-election, Cornyn is facing seven Republicans, all of whom have publicly praised Cruz. Cruz has not endorsed Cornyn's re-election or any of his opponents.
Cruz has repeatedly referred to Cornyn as a "friend" in recent months, while also making clear that the pair did not see eye to eye last year on the best strategy for repealing Obamacare.
"Listen, I like John Cornyn. He’s a friend of mine," Cruz told CNN last week. “He and I have agreed on the vast majority of issues. I disagreed with him on this.”
Alexa Ura contributed to this report.