PALM BEACH, Fla. — Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas predicts that he’s “going to face a very serious race” as he runs for re-election next year.
Cruz made his comments Friday as he addressed dozens of major Republican contributors gathered at a donor retreat hosted by the politically influential, fiscally conservative group Club for Growth.
Former Vice President Mike Pence and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, who are seriously considering bids for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, also spoke to donors at the gathering at an exclusive beachfront resort in this upper crust seaside community.
“Some people say money doesn’t matter in politics. Really, they’ve never run a race,” Cruz said to laughter from the crowd as he pointed back to his hard-fought razor-thin Senate re-election victory over then- Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke. “We were out raised and outspent three to one.”
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Cruz, in his speech and in an ensuing interview with Fox News Digital, argued that “after [former President] Donald Trump there is no Republican in the country that Democrats hate more than me,” adding that’s “something I wear as a badge of honor. There is no Republican that they would like to beat more than me.”
And pointing to his 2024 re-election campaign, he predicted that “this is going to be, I believe, a $100 million race… I guarantee you there are a dozen Democrat gazillionaires who are looking back at 2018 and saying ‘we came two points’ away from beating that SOB. And next time I’m writing another million-dollar check.'”
Speaking to the donors, he said “that’s why I’m talking to you… I need your help once again… they’re going to come after us with everything they have.”
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While no major Texas Democrat has yet to jump into the Senate race, the senator forecast that “they’re going to run a serious candidate, but it would be beneficial to put a bunch of money in the bank fast, to discourage the more serious opponents from getting in. This is a race where early money has a potential to save the need to spend a ton of money later in the cycle.”
Cruz warned that if the Democrats “turn Texas blue, the country’s lost. You can’t win the presidential with a blue Texas… a blue Texas means the Democrats and the socialists control the country in lockstep. We can’t let that happen. “
And he predicted “this is going to be a firefight but we’re going to win.”
Cruz was runner-up to Trump in the wide open and fuel 2016 Republican presidential nomination race. But this time around he’s staying on the sidelines of the White House race as he seeks a third term in the Senate.
Asked if he’ll stay take sides and back a candidate in the GOP presidential primaries, Cruz told Fox News “they’ll be plenty of time for that. I suspect we’ll have several more people get in the race and I’m confident it will be wild and woolly. I suspect they’ll be some insults, some nicknames.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who’s seriously mulling a White House run, also addressed the donors on Friday.
“Republicans and conservatives cannot abandon our commitment to fiscal responsibility and reform and that includes commonsense reforms to Social Security and Medicare,” Pence emphasized to crowd.
Pointing to the nation’s exploding national debt and to the recent birth of two granddaughters, the former vice president stressed that “I can’t walk by the debt crisis our nation’s facing and neither can you.”
And he warned that “if we kick the can down the road…if we wait 25 years to deal with this issue, until this mountain of debt becomes a mountain range of debt, all of our choices will be bad. We can reform Social Security today in ways that don’t touch current retirees or anyone who will retire in the next 20 years.”
If Pence launches as White House campaign, as many pundits expect, he’d join a field that already includes his one-time boss – Trump.
The former vice president touted Trump-Pence administration accomplishments but reiterated that when it comes to his former running mate, “different times call for different leadership … I know the Republican voters across the country are going to choose the right leader at the right time and we’re going to win the day in 2024.”
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, who’s become a vocal Trump critic in recent years, called the former president “the orange haired elephant in the room.”
He noted that “I supported Trump in ’16, I supported him in ’20. I think he did some very good stuff. But thank you very much, we’re moving on. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of independents that were with us and just stepped to the side and said no, ‘if that’s your flag bearer, I’m not going to be there.’.. I think most folks agree, we’ve got to move on if you want to win in ’24 .”
Sununu argued that when it comes to the 2024 general election, “there’s no avenue for him [Trump] to win.”
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New Hampshire’s popular GOP governor stressed that Republicans need to “be inspirational in terms of our leadership. Let’s be aspirational. Let’s make we are the team folks want to join and that we’re leading with that type of message.”
And he criticized the GOP, charging that “our messaging is frankly so bad at times, we step all over ourselves….We let the Democrats define us.”