WASHINGTON -- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) likely gave his GOP colleagues another cause for heartburn Thursday, refusing to promise to stay out of primaries where he could potentially use his conservative clout against fellow Republicans.
"What I have said is that I'm likely going to stay out of incumbent Republican primaries," Cruz said at a Politico Playbook breakfast moderated by Mike Allen. "I haven't put that in concrete. But I am likely going to stay out of incumbent Republican primaries."
Allen followed up, "And why aren't you putting that in concrete?"
Cruz responded, "Because things can change in politics."
Cruz's comments indicated his willingness to keep open a potentially damaging political option that he has not used so far: wielding his sizable grassroots and fundraising power against an incumbent senator. He has thus far stayed out of the most high-profile 2014 primary race -- between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and challenger Matt Bevin, a businessman. However, Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel told Politico that he had spoken with Cruz about his primary challenge against Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) In addition, Politico reported that Cruz wrote a fundraising letter sent out in January by the Madison Project, a conservative group backing Bevin and McDaniel. Cruz said at the breakfast that the letter had been written last April, before he reportedly told other GOP senators in October that he would stay out of primaries.
Typically evasive about endorsements, Cruz was coy when asked about Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who has drawn seven Republican primary opponents ahead of Tuesday's election, including Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas). Cornyn is nonetheless expected to coast to victory.
Cruz said only that he "liked" Cornyn, and declined to say whether he would vote for him in Tuesday's primary. He acknowledged that his decision to stay out of incumbent primaries was "unusual."
"Rand Paul was back in Kentucky campaigning for Mitch McConnell. That was his decision. I have made a different decision to stay out of that race," he added. "I trust the grassroots."
Allen tried to pin down Cruz on who he would vote for. "That's between me and the ballot box," he said. When Allen asked again, he repeated that he was "likely" going to stay out of incumbent Republican primaries, saying, "I am not supporting any of the senators from my party or their opponents."