By Frank Fang
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Republicans missed a “generational opportunity” to retake Congress in the midterm elections, and criticized Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for placing personal politics above the party’s best interests.
“We had an extraordinary opportunity. We had a generational opportunity. This should have been a fundamental landslide election,” Cruz said on his podcast “Verdict with Ted Cruz” on Nov. 14.
Cruz added: “We should have won the House and the Senate. We should have a 30, 40, 50-vote majority in the House. We should have 53, 54, 55 Republicans in the Senate.”
Republicans lost control of the Senate after suffering losses in Arizona, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. The GOP is still expected to gain control of the House, though with only a slim majority.
After several races were called Monday night, Republicans are one seat away from the 218-seat majority needed to take control of the House. There are 13 uncalled races left.
Cruz criticized McConnell for the failure of the Republicans to win Arizona’s Senate race with GOP candidate Blake Masters.
“Mitch McConnell pulled the money out of Arizona. We could have won Arizona. We nearly won Arizona. And abandoning Blake Masters was indefensible,” Cruz said.
The Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), a political action committee with close ties to McConnell, slashed millions in campaign spending for the Arizona Senate race in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 8 election.
Cruz explained that SLF’s decision was made because Masters had said he would not support McConnell as leader in the next Congress.
“Because Masters said he would vote against Mitch McConnell. And so Mitch would rather be leader than have a Republican majority. If there’s a Republican who can win who’s not going to support Mitch, the truth of the matter is he’d rather the Democrat win,” Cruz said.
During the Arizona Republican primary, Masters called for McConnell to be replaced as GOP leader, saying he would support Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) or Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) for the position.
“I’ll tell Mitch this to his face,” Masters said during a Republican primary debate in June. “He’s not bad at everything. He’s good at judges. He’s good at blocking Democrats. You know what he’s not good at? Legislating.”
On election eve, Masters told The Wall Street Journal he would support a conservative challenger to McConnell if elected, telling the outlet that “we need new leadership” in the Senate.
Had McConnell directed the millions he spent supporting incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in Alaska’s Senate race to Arizona, Cruz said “Blake Masters probably would have won and we would be on the road to a Republican majority.”
Murkowski’s challenger, Kelly Tshibaka, a Republican who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, has said she would not support McConnell as leader. Currently, Tshibaka has a 1.38-percent-lead (pdf) over Murkowski but the winner has not been declared.
Masters, in an interview with Fox News on Friday ahead of his defeat, criticized McConnell for not spending money on his race.
“McConnell decided to spend millions of dollars attacking a fellow Republican in Alaska instead of helping me defeat Senator Mark Kelly,” Masters said. “Had he chosen to spend money in Arizona, this race would be over. We’d be celebrating a Senate majority right now.”
“Mitch made a decision: It’s more important to him to have Republicans who will back him than it is to have 51 Republicans,” Cruz said. “I understand why there’s a certain selfishness that justifies that. It just doesn’t make any sense if you give a damn about the country.”
Senate Republicans are scheduled to hold leadership elections on Nov. 16. However, a number of Republicans—including Cruz, Hawley, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)—are calling for the vote to be delayed until after the Senate runoff election in Georgia is completed.
“It would be insane if we reelect the same leadership two days from now, if we say: ‘Hey nothing happened. Everything’s good. Keep rowing off the waterfall, crash into the rocks, everything’s awesome,’” Cruz said.