(Bloomberg) — Ted Cruz is pleading with his Republican presidential rivals to “prayerfully” consider getting out of the race and support his bid in order to stop front-runner Donald Trump from clinching the nomination. He had a strong case to make after winning six states through Tuesday afternoon, coming within a few points of Trump in several others, and gaining ground in national polls.
But he’s getting no support from U.S. Senate colleagues, even after a seventh victory on Tuesday night in Idaho put him fewer than 100 delegates behind Trump and more than 200 delegates ahead of Marco Rubio, who has won just two contests out of 24 so far.
“It’s surely significant that not a single Republican senator has endorsed him, including very conservative senators,” Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told reporters prior to Tuesday’s results.
When Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby was asked, he offered a curt reply: “I’m going to lunch.”
Despite his lackluster performance so far, the allies of Sen. Rubio of Florida are sticking with him in the hope that he wins the 99-delegate Florida primary on March 15. His supporters saw few hopes of a revival in a quartet of contests on Tuesday evening. He was the only Republican candidate expected to pick up zero delegates from any of the day’s races.
“Hogwash,” South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott said, prior to Tuesday’s results, of rumors that Rubio’s campaign may suspend before Florida. Utah’s Orrin Hatch, North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, Oklahoma’s James Inhofe, Arizona’s Jeff Flake and Kansas’ Pat Roberts said they remain committed to Rubio.
“I don’t think he needs to turn it around, he just needs to keep going forward,” Scott said of Rubio. “I think he’s going to do really well for the rest of the week and have a great day in Florida next week.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s campaign is holding firm until his home-state primary on March 15. On Tuesday, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman reaffirmed his support for Kasich. “I’m fine with Ted, but I’m very excited about John Kasich,” Portman said. “I think we’re going to win Ohio.”
‘Everybody knows why’
Cruz is the only Republican candidate without any Senate endorsements. In interviews Tuesday with 18 senators, there was scant indication they’re heeding Cruz’s call to unite behind his campaign. When asked why the Texan lacks Senate support, their answers ranged from awkward chuckles and long silences to no-comments and briskly walking into a senators-only elevator to evade the question.
“I think it’s a whole list of things,” said Indiana Sen. Dan Coats, telling Bloomberg Politics that “everybody knows why” Cruz doesn’t have any Senate supporters.
Republican senators’ antipathy for Cruz is the worst-kept secret in Washington, owing to bad blood as a result of Cruz’s scorched-earth tactics, such as forcing an unsuccessful government shutdown in 2013 and calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the floor of the chamber last year. The widespread perception remains that Cruz is willing to throw his colleagues under the bus to boost his own ambitions.
“His tenure in the Senate so far, for the most part, has been being kind of a disruptor,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the third-ranking Republican in the chamber. “I think very early on, he had decided that he was going to make a national run and that’s probably kinda where he’s put his efforts and energies.”
Many aren’t sure Cruz would be preferable to Trump, either. When asked which of the two he’d rather see as the nominee, Flake let out a nervous laugh and said he’s still supporting Rubio.
Even fellow Texan and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn pleaded the fifth when asked about Cruz’s lack of support from colleagues. “You know, I think I’m going to invoke the McConnell rule and not talk about the presidential primary,” Cornyn said.
No Regrets for Shutdown
The government shutdown of 2013, a quixotic and failed effort to defund Obamacare, was led by Cruz and a small group of House Republicans who met regularly at a modest Tex-Mex restaurant a short walk from the Capitol building called Tortilla Coast. When the government re-opened 16 days into the shutdown, many Republicans were slammed by the base as sellouts. Since then, Cruz’s relations with colleagues have only gotten worse.