A pair of runoff races in Georgia that will determine control of the U.S. Senate has grabbed the attention of some of the biggest names in Texas politics, giving them a high-stakes opportunity to help their parties — and also grow their own profiles.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas GOP Chairman Allen West, U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Houston, and former presidential candidate Julián Castro have all traveled to the state — or plan to soon — to campaign in the Jan. 5 runoffs where Republican U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler will face Democrats Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, respectively.
President Donald Trump has already visited the state to campaign for Loeffler and Perdue, and President-elect Joe Biden announced Thursday that he is heading to Atlanta next week as both parties vie for control of a state that has long been reliably Republican.
“Everything is at stake,” Crenshaw tweeted Wednesday, calling Loeffler and Perdue "the last line of defense against socialist control of Congress."
On Election Day, Purdue was the lead vote-getter in his race; Loeffler, meanwhile, trailed Warnock in hers. No candidate cleared 50% of the vote in the respective races, and Georgia law requires a runoff in such cases.
Still, both parties and their allied groups are making huge investments: advertising, outside spending, grassroots efforts and a panoply of surrogates will visit the state over the next several weeks.
Earlier this week, Castro, the former U.S. housing secretary and San Antonio mayor, spent two days in Georgia stumping with both Ossoff and Warnock. Castro’s visit focused on registering voters by the Monday deadline and mobilizing young voters and Latino voters. His visit also focused on communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent economic recession.
Appearing alongside Warnock on Tuesday, Castro said the success of Biden’s presidency hinged upon the runoffs.
“If Joe Biden and Kamala Harris don’t have strong partners in the United States Senate, then nothing is gonna get done to improve the lives of people here in Georgia who are hard working and especially our young people,” Castro said.
Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, meanwhile, has encouraged supporters to donate to Democrats in both races.
Cruz is set to campaign in the state from Dec. 17-19. He is expected to appear at events for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP campaign arm, as well as the Club for Growth, the national anti-tax group.
Cruz called in to a Georgia radio show Wednesday, proclaiming the runoffs the “most important Senate races of our lifetimes.” If Democrats win the Senate majority, Cruz warned, there would be “no check whatsoever on the most radical policies of the Democratic left.” At the same time, Cruz made an appeal to Georgians who may have voted against Trump in the November election, saying that “doesn’t necessarily mean you want the extreme left empowered in the Senate.”
Cruz is among the Republicans visiting Georgia who could run for president in 2024. After coming up short in 2016, Cruz has made little secret he is interested in making a second bid for the White House in the future.
Another high-profile Texas Republican, Crenshaw, has already visited the state and plans to return before the end of the month. After raising over $1 million for several Texas congressional candidates through his “Texas Reloaded” fund, he has launched a “Georgia Reloaded” effort to pull in money for the runoffs — with the same action-movie theatrics.
Crenshaw also has been vocal in pushing back against suggestions from some on the pro-Trump fringe that Republicans sit out the runoffs due to unfounded claims of widespread fraud in the November election in Georgia.
“We need to be on message on this: We need to get out and vote,” Crenshaw said during a Fox News Radio interview last week. “I don’t want to hear any childish, ‘I’m going to take my ball and go home because I'm upset.’”
Cruz has also struck a similar tone, tweeting earlier this month that anyone suggesting Republicans boycott the runoffs “is trying to mislead the people of Georgia.”
A third Texas Republican, West, is due in the state Wednesday to headline a rally in support of Loeffler and Perdue. The state party has been mobilizing volunteers on its Mighty Texas Strike Force to head to Georgia, with the largest deployment expected to happen after Christmas.
West said in an interview Thursday that the runoffs are “important for Texas Republicans and nationally because if we look at the ideological agenda that could be put in place” by a Democratic-held Senate, it would be far-reaching.
“This is my state of birth, and so I’ll be going to some of the areas I knew as a kid growing up,” West told The Texas Tribune. “We don’t want to see America changed because Georgia did not retain those two senators that we had.”
If Republicans can hold only one of the two seats, they will retain the U.S. Senate majority and hamper much of President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda. But if Warnock and Ossoff can flip both seats, Democrats will gain a working majority in a 50-50 Senate, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris empowered to break ties. The difference between a Republican or Democratic-controlled chamber is substantial when it comes to how nominations and legislation would be considered.
In a sign of how the political world has gone all in on Georgia, the campaigners from Texas have not gone unnoticed by other out-of-state surrogates. U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, lambasted Ossoff for campaigning with Castro, whom he says “wants to open our borders and decriminalize illegal immigration.”
“Their agenda couldn’t be more radical for the people of Georgia and all Americans,” Cotton wrote.