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U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Wednesday he is watching to see what happens in the Iowa caucuses next week as he faces increasing pressure to back frontrunner Donald Trump in his comeback bid.
In a statement to The Texas Tribune, Cruz said he has “an immense amount of respect for the Iowa caucuses and their procedures.” He won the critical first-in-the-nation contest when he ran for president against Trump eight years ago.
“I was a part of that process in 2016, so I have a special appreciation for it, and I learned intimately how unpredictable it can be,” Cruz said. “The people of Iowa take their responsibility very seriously. I hope we can get through the process quickly and continue to go about the critical business of beating Joe Biden.”
Cruz reiterated in the statement that the eventual GOP nominee will have his “full support.”
Trump has long led the polls in Iowa, though Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has gone all in on the state and Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is contending there on her way to friendlier territory in New Hampshire. In recent weeks, Trump and his allies have grown increasingly frustrated with Cruz’s neutrality.
Cruz has maintained his neutrality in this Republican primary for months, calling himself “Switzerland” when asked about it at The Texas Tribune Festival last fall. Earlier in 2023, he said he saw a “two-man race between Trump and DeSantis,” whose political operation has included several former Cruz staffers.
Trump has used his social media platform, Truth Social, to target Cruz multiple times in recent weeks. In early December, Trump taunted Cruz and another holdout — U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri — over their reelection campaigns last year, saying Democrats want to beat them and they “must be very careful, stranger things have happened!!!” Hawley endorsed Trump days later.
Last week, The New York Times reported that Trump is “privately ranting about and workshopping nicknames” for Republicans who have not endorsed him yet, including Cruz.
Cruz is running for a third term next year and has repeatedly emphasized the need for GOP unity in Texas.
"I'm staying out of [the presidential primary] for many reasons, one of which is that I'm running for reelection in the great state of Texas and we're expecting a serious fight in Texas," Cruz told Newsmax in August. He added that he would “like the support of every Trump supporter and every DeSantis supporter” in the state.
Cruz, of course, has a complicated history with Trump. They bitterly battled in the final stretch of the 2016 primary, and Cruz withheld his endorsement for weeks after Trump officially became the nominee. Cruz was a reliable ally for Trump in the Senate during his presidency, and Trump stumped for Cruz in his 2018 reelection bid.
In Texas, the 2024 presidential primary has not been competitive. Trump has led all recent public polling and earned the lion’s share of endorsements from GOP elected officials. That includes Gov. Greg Abbott, who endorsed Trump during an event at the Mexican border last month.
DeSantis’ biggest supporter in Texas has been U.S. Rep. Chip Roy of Austin, who has traveled to Iowa multiple times to campaign for DeSantis. Roy is Cruz’s former chief of staff.
Texas’ other U.S. senator, John Cornyn, has been much less inclined to back Trump. He does not plan to endorse in the primary but has made clear he would prefer a new direction for his party, which has also angered Trump.
Disclosure: New York Times has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.