Speed Reads

a changed man

Ted Cruz is trying to rebrand, mostly by being a whole lot nicer

With his state devastated from Hurricane Harvey and a re-election race on the horizon next year, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is rethinking his brand, The New York Times reported Friday. The man who once voted against a relief measure after 2012's Hurricane Sandy is now talking about "unity," "love," and "compassion"; helping families tear drywall out of their flood-ruined homes; and standing in awe at the Coast Guard's strength:

"Almost every one of them ripped," he marveled on the Senate floor, holding for dramatic pauses pregnant enough to require bed rest. "These are guys that know their way around a weight room."

He has served chili to the suddenly homeless inside a Houston convention center, wearing a hairnet that aides quickly insisted he cover with a baseball cap. He has embraced congregants at a black church in Port Arthur. He has hugged liberally. [The New York Times]

Cruz is also trying to remake his image in the Senate, where he hasn't exactly been popular. He's "dined with colleagues from across the Senate majority" and served as "an unlikely consensus builder among hard-right and moderate Republicans" amid the effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare, the Times noted.

In perhaps his most radical venture, Cruz has taken it upon himself to organize regular bipartisan basketball games in the Senate. Cruz's chief of staff, David Polyansky, pointed out that Cruz actually has some skills on the court — at least when it comes to not needing to "chug water between games," which Polyansky said "far younger participants stagger over" to do. "Endurance of a camel," Polyansky remarked.

Read more about "Ted Cruz 2.0" at The New York Times.