It’s hard to think of two senators who are more different than Ted Cruz and Roy Blunt.
Cruz is a firebrand tea party activist from Texas who has a tendency to ruffle his GOP colleagues’ feathers the wrong way. He once even called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar.
Blunt is an even-tempered Midwesterner who serves alongside McConnell on the Republican Party’s leadership team in the Senate. He’s respected among fellow lawmakers for his bipartisan dealmaking skills and pitches himself to voters as someone whose long experience in Washington benefits Missouri and the country.
But politics can make strange bedfellows.
Cruz hits the campaign trail in Missouri on Wednesday to help Blunt, whose race against Democratic challenger Jason Kander is one of the closest in the nation. A pair of recent polls indicate the race is virtually tied.
The outcome of the contest could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.
Cruz will be the special guest star at a get-out-the-vote rally for Blunt in Joplin, Missouri. He also is fundraising for Blunt.
Cruz, a onetime presidential hopeful, may be on an apology tour of sorts to mend his relationship with the Republican establishment, said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor for The Cook Political Report, a publication that tracks U.S. Senate and governors races.
“Cruz is really good at rallying the base, and I think Cruz is on a bit of a contrition tour,” Duffy said. “He’s been doing a lot of campaigning.”
Blunt is the only Republican Senate candidate in a competitive race who is polling behind Donald Trump right now, she said. He needs to boost enthusiasm among Republican voters to win.
“The message that Donald Trump talks about — ‘anti-insider, drain the swamp’ — that doesn’t help Blunt, who has been in Washington a while,” Duffy said.
That’s where Cruz comes in. As a well-known anti-establishment crusader, his presence could help Blunt focus conservative voters on the importance of keeping control of the Senate from Democrats.
“It doesn’t hurt to have somebody come and talk about why it’s important to vote in a Republican Senate and can do it more effectively than the candidate,” Duffy said.