On Wednesday night in Conroe, Ted Cruz was the featured speaker at a political rally for President Donald Trump. At least that’s how it must have seemed to a political innocent accidentally wandering into the 22,000-square-foot ballroom of the Lone Star Convention and Expo Center, which was packed wall-to-wall with thousands of the MAGA-cap-wearing, American-flag-bedecked Trump faithful.
In reality, of course, this was a rally for Cruz’s campaign to be reelected to the U.S. Senate. Cruz had come to Conroe, the sprawling exurb an hour’s drive north of Houston, at the end of a long day of barnstorming the state in the company of one Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle. But beginning with the event’s first speaker, Congressman Kevin Brady, the rally’s focus was squarely on the commander-in-chief.
“We know he’s fighting for us, and we know he’s fighting for the working man!” Brady said of POTUS. As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Brady worked closely with Trump to pass the 2017 tax cut, and regaled the Montgomery County audience with stories of 3 a.m. calls from the White House to discuss the ways and means of getting the bill to the president’s desk. “After an hour, I had to tell him, Mr. President, you need to sleep!”
Next up was Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who at least had the decency to take a short break from praising Trump to assail the ethnic heritage of Cruz’s opponent, Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke. “Are we going to let Beto O’Rourke, that Irishman, win this election?” he asked the already-booing crowd. Attacking O’Rourke’s name was something of a leitmotif of the event. State senator Brandon Creighton, who served as emcee, kicked things off by asking if there was a Francis O’Rourke in the building. “Because that’s his real name!”
But Brady and Patrick (who was born Dannie Scott Goeb) were just the warm-up acts for the true stars of the show, GOP super-couple Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle. (GuilTrump? TruFoyle?) Guilfoyle came out guns blazing: “We’re here to make sure you don’t put a Beto male in the U.S. Senate!” she declared to delirious applause. “Let me tell you, from a real Hispanic, that Texas deserves better than what Beto O’Rourke is selling. Texas deserves Ted Cruz.”
Don Jr. introduced himself to the crowd by saying how odd it felt to be wearing a suit in a state that he usually visited for the sole purpose of hunting deer. But this self-described “Fifth Avenue redneck” had different prey in mind on this trip, namely, the “elephant in the room”: the nasty 2016 primary contest between Cruz and his father, during which Cruz called Trump a “pathological liar” and Trump suggested that Cruz’s father may have played a role in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Don Jr. told the crowd that he and the Texas senator patched things up after the election when they were seated at the same table for a fancy dinner, at the conclusion of which they repaired to a nearby bar, emerging the best of friends. Having delivered this testimonial to Cruz’s good sportsmanship, Trump fils proceeded to spend the rest of his speech extolling the achievements of his beloved father, from record unemployment to cutting regulations to pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal.
“You better show up [at the polls],” Don Jr. admonished the crowd. “For all of the accomplishments that are being checked off, there’s a lot left. We need guys like Ted Cruz. You can’t just be excited for Donald Trump, because he can’t do it alone. He can’t do it without these guys, and they can’t do it without you.”
Finally, the man without whom Trump could not do it took the stage. “These are crazy, crazy times,” said an almost wistful Cruz. “By the way, if anyone would like advice on a nice, romantic restaurant, Heidi and I have an idea”—a reference to the senator and his wife being chased out of a D.C. restaurant by protesters last month. Cruz then launched into his stump speech, filled with the usual bromides about cutting taxes, securing the border, repealing every word of Obamacare, protecting the Second Amendment, and, perhaps most important, confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court as soon as humanly possible.
Cruz ended his speech with good news and bad news. The good news: His own campaign had raised an astonishing $12 million in the third quarter of 2018—the most ever raised in a single quarter by a Texas senatorial candidate. The audience cheered. Then Cruz followed with the bad news: his opponent was out-raising him three to one thanks to angry, far-left donors “filled with hate for President Trump.”
O’Rourke, he estimated, had raised $30 million.