U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul declined Tuesday to say whether he will challenge U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz for the Senate in 2018, but he did criticize Texas' junior senator for neglecting the state amid presidential ambitions.
"I think he's spent a lot of time since Day One running for president," McCaul said in an interview with The Texas Tribune in Austin Tuesday morning. "I think we deserve somebody in the Senate who is going to be representing the interests of the state of Texas."
Cruz, once the dominant Republican in the state, ended his presidential campaign with what many considered a moral victory — a strong campaign that outperformed expectations. But the senator stumbled over the summer and into the fall as he jumped back and forth over whether to endorse Trump, which he eventually did in late September.
In that vacuum, McCaul emerged as the most realistic threat to Cruz in a primary.
McCaul's charge against Cruz is one that dogged the senator Cruz throughout his presidential campaign.
"I do think after this election cycle that he has come home, that he realizes ... you have to mind the store back home, and I do think he has traveled the state in an effort to get that back on track," McCaul added.
McCaul clarified that he is considering a number of options, including serving in a presidential administration or as House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman when his term on the Homeland Security Committee expires in 2019.
But the Senate race is on the minds of Republicans who've encouraged him to run against Cruz.
"It's flattering, I've had a lot of people come up to me and ask me about this, and they're supportive as well," McCaul said. "This is not of my making. I have speculation of where it's coming from. There has been a lot of support out there."
McCaul added that he is not building a Senate campaign.
"[The way] I kinda grew up, you support your nominee," McCaul said. "That's just politics, and that's what you do."
Meanwhile, McCaul said he is a policy fixture in the Trump campaign, advising the candidate on national security and in debate preparation.
Amid weeks of Trump campaign turmoil, McCaul said his endorsement remains firm. Even so, he repeatedly declined to directly say whether Trump is fit to be president.
"I'm not going to be associated with everything that comes out of his mouth," McCaul said. "He's going to surround himself with very capable people."
"I think he's a leader, and I think we have not had leadership," he added. "I think we have not had this leadership; we've led from behind in the world."
He said he has warned his children that "this is not a normal election," and he reiterated previous criticism of Trump's comments about sexually assaulting women.
"I have four daughters; it's not the language I think is appropriate."
To which moderator Evan Smith, CEO of The Texas Tribune, asked: "Would he have to kill somebody for you to not endorse him?"
McCaul said his logic was based on Democrat Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, calling her foreign policy execution "a disaster" and said "she makes the world a more dangerous place, and she's going to hurt our economy."
"My job was to try to advise him as best I could on national security issues," he said, calling it an "interesting experience."
"I got pulled in before the second debate and then the third to try and bring him up to speed," he said. "Obviously, these issues are not his strength, if you will."
"It was gratifying to see him actually make points that I had prepped him on, briefed him on," he said. "That's all I can do," he said, adding that he will vote for Trump.
But McCaul said there was a point of divergence between him and Trump: whether the Russians were behind the massive hacking of Democratic officials. Trump refused in the final debate to acknowledge the Russian interference.
"I have briefed the nominee on this: This is a nation-state attack to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, he said, acknowledging he was referring to Russia.
"I think he has in his mind that there's not the proof. Now, he hasn't had the briefing I've had."
Read more on McCaul and Trump:
- Texas Republicans condemn Donald Trump over vulgar comments.
- U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul does not rule out challenging Ted Cruz in the 2018 Senate primary.