Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, swung through Texas on Wednesday to boost U.S. Ted Cruz in his re-election campaign, touting Cruz's conversion from an enemy to ally of his father after their bruising battle in 2016 for the Republican presidential nomination.
"He’s fought alongside of my father ever since on every major vote, for every policy piece — for everything," Trump said during an afternoon rally with Cruz in Wichita Falls. "He put aside any of those differences and he did what’s right for you because that’s his job and he is doing it."
The president's son was the first in a series of high-profile surrogates expected to visit Texas between now and Election Day to help Cruz as he faces a strong challenge from U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso. Vice President Mike Pence is set to be in Dallas on Monday to stump for Cruz — as well as local U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions — and the president himself is due in the state later this month to hold a rally with Cruz.
After Wichita Falls, Trump and Cruz were headed to the Houston area to hold a nighttime rally in Conroe. They were also fitting in some fundraising around the rallies, including an event earlier in the day in Austin. Joining them on the trip was Kimberly Guilfoyle, the former Fox News host who is now dating Trump and working for a pro-Trump super PAC.
In Wichita Falls, Trump spent some of his remarks addressing what Cruz has called his biggest challenge in the race: Republican complacency. The president's son acknowledged an enthusiasm gap between what he described as Republicans who are satisfied with the direction of the country and Democrats who are "motivated by nothing other than hate."
"You think you saw dysfunction over the last two weeks in D.C.?" Trump asked, alluding to the battle over Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. "You ain’t seen nothing yet if you gave Nancy Pelosi the House of Representatives, if you gave Chuck Schumer the Senate. Let that be your motivation."
Trump also took a swipe at O'Rourke, saying he was looking at the Democrat's positions and questioning whether he was running for office in a blue state like New York, not Texas — a regular Cruz line of attack. "I'm like, wow, that's a pretty extreme position — if you're Bill de Blasio," he said, referring to the New York City mayor.
As for O'Rourke, he was off the campaign trail Wednesday, making a return trip to Tornillo, the immigrant detention center that has been at the center of the family separation crisis at the border. He was scheduled to resume a college tour Thursday at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
As Cruz and Trump traveled the state, Democrats noted that Cruz was the only senator to miss a final vote Wednesday on legislation to combat the nation's opioid crisis, a policy area that Cruz has highlighted in his re-election campaign. The vote was 98-1.
"This is another blatant example of Ted Cruz putting politics over people," Manny Garcia, the deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, said in a statement. "Texans are fed up, demanding change, and they deserve a full-time senator that’s in their corner. That Senator is Beto O’Rourke."
Through his office, Cruz issued a statement applauding passage of the bill and noting he voted for it when it initially came to the Senate floor last month.