With Sen. Marco Rubio out and Gov. John Kasich’s prospects still a pipe dream — even if he refuses to admit it — the GOP establishment appears to be softening toward Sen. Ted Cruz as the only viable remaining non-Trump option.
But even after the once-huge GOP field now has been whittled down to what many argue are just two viable candidates — both “anti-establishment” — the GOP establishment still doesn’t seem to get it. These establishment leaders fail to grasp that the establishment itself is in fact a huge part of the problem — and is a key driver behind the success of both Trump and Cruz.
The latest evidence of the establishment’s own tone-deafness is what they want Ted Cruz to do in order to garner their support. They want Cruz to apologize to them — most notably, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Senior Senate Republicans are calling on Sen. Ted Cruz to rebuild his strained relationships with his colleagues and apologize to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell before the party establishment considers consolidating behind his presidential bid.
Cruz has increasingly called for Republicans to unify behind his candidacy in order to take down front-runner Donald Trump. But in interviews Tuesday with CNN, it’s clear Cruz’s fellow GOP senators are not willing to do that, at least not yet.
Republican senators said that Cruz must return to Capitol Hill and make the case directly to his colleagues to help ease long-festering tensions. And a large number of Republicans said the fence-mending starts with this: Apologizing to McConnell for calling him a liar last year on the floor of the Senate.
That message was personally delivered by fellow Texan and McConnell’s chief deputy, Sen. John Cornyn, who spoke with Cruz by phone after the candidate won their home state’s primary earlier this month.
“I actually made that suggestion to him when I talked to him last,” Cornyn said when asked if he thought Cruz should apologize for his McConnell remarks.
Others had similar suggestions for Cruz.
“I think he’s got some bridges to build here,” said Sen. John Thune, the No. 3 Senate Republican. “I think it would be helpful obviously for him — if he thinks he is going to be the guy or wants to be the guy — to come back here to mend some of those fences that he tore down when he was here.”
“That was not proper as you know, and I raised hell about it,” Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the longest-serving Senate Republican, said of Cruz’s criticism of McConnell. “I’m a great believer of repentance and changing, and I think there’s a gradual change there that I’m noticing, which is good.”
Hatch also had this to say of Cruz: “It’s always helpful when you admit you’re wrong.”
How far Cruz is willing to go to win back his colleagues remains to be seen. A Cruz spokesman in his Senate office referred questions to the campaign, and aides there did not respond to an inquiry.
I’m all for mending fences and building bridges. But if you asked me — and, I venture to guess, many Republican voters — the main apology the GOP establishment should be focused on now is their own apology to the voters who sent them to Washington. These voters who elected a GOP majority to Congress, sent them to Washington to do a job and feel they’ve been let down. And worse, their wishes largely ignored.
Exit polls from today’s primaries show clear majorities of voters feeling betrayed by their party. When will Republican leaders start to acknowledge their role in this and attempt to make amends with the voters they’re sent to serve?
[Note: This article was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]