Two years ago, they were bitter rivals on the debate stage – “Lyin’ Ted,” as Donald Trump called Sen. Ted Cruz, and “pathological liar,” as Cruz called Mr. Trump.
But on Monday night, they appeared on stage in Houston together as allies, as the president campaigns to help Cruz keep his Senate seat, the days of the GOP primaries for president seemingly well behind them. Cruz’s race against Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke is closer than Republicans would like it to be, and Mr. Trump can’t afford to lose any seats in the U.S. Senate that already lacks the number of Republicans he wants.
“You know, we had our little difficulties,” the president acknowledged on stage at the Houston Toyota Center, calling Cruz a very good friend.
But things, he insisted, have changed. Speaking to reporters at the White House on his way to Houston, Mr. Trump said he and Cruz have moved on, saying he’s not “lyin’ Ted” anymore but “Beautiful Ted.”
“To me he’s not lying’ Ted anymore, he’s Beautiful Ted. He’s, I call him Texas Ted,” the president said on the White House South Lawn. “No, Ted Cruz and I had a very very nasty and tough campaign. It was a very competitive, it was a very tough campaign. Once it ended and we got together, and by the way very late into the campaign — people were shocked. I said don’t worry it’s only a question of time. And then ultimately what happened, we fought it out, the outcome was obviously and we have worked together very closely. I actually like him a lot and he’s a very smart guy. he loves the people of Texas which I do.”
That doesn’t mean the president regrets anything he said on the campaign trail, or the scores of tweets mocking Cruz during the campaign. Asked Monday if he regretted suggesting Cruz’ father was responsible for killing John F. Kennedy, Mr. Trump said he regrets nothing.
“I don’t regret anything, honestly. It all worked out, very nicely,” Mr. Trump said.
Cruz might need the support. O’Rourke has brought in eye-popping fundraising figures — $38 million in the third quarter of 2018 alone, compared with more than $12 million for Cruz.
During the rally, Mr. Trump had plenty of lines that riled up the crowd, going after Democrats from Sen. Dianne Feinstein to Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Mr. Trump joked that he can’t call Warren “Pocahontas” anymore “because she has no Indian blood.”
“But if you don’t mind I will anyway. Is that OK?” he said.
The president blasted “globalist” policies that, as he sees it, place other nations about the United States, embracing a label he has often been given by critics.
“You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, OK?” he said, encouraging the crowd to use that term.
The Houston rally comes as Mr. Trump continues to blast the caravan of migrants heading from Central America through Mexico on their way to the southern border. The president claimed “unknown Middle Easterners” and “criminals” are mixed into the crowd, which has grown into more than 5,000 people. On Monday night, the president highlighted border security — or what he sees as a lack thereof — and warned Democrats are weak on immigration.
With just two weeks until the midterm elections, the president has openly said immigration and the caravan is a great political issue for Republicans to seize. Early voting began Monday in Texas along with parts of Florida and Massachusetts.
The president dangled potential future policies Monday night, too, including a claim he’ said earlier in the day — that he wants to cut middle class taxes by an additional 10 percent. Congress is out until after the midterm elections, so it’s unclear when that might happen. And if Republicans lose the House, further tax cuts seem unlikely.
“That is in addition to the big tax cuts that you’ve already gotten,” he said.
With gusto, the president urged supporters to cast their votes for Cruz and Republican members of Congress — but not without error. The president told everyone who could to vote for Republican Rep. Ted Poe.
Poe is retiring.