Briefing

Will Ted Cruz run for president in 2024?

The Texas senator has called his 2016 presidential campaign 'the most fun I ever had in my life'

Texas Sen.Ted Cruz (R) famously took second place in his 2016 bid for U.S. president, having ultimately lost the Republican nomination to Donald Trump in a contest far more bitter and contentious than their current repartee might suggest. But with 2024 on the horizon, might Cruz yet again try his hand at the White House? And how might an anticipated announcement from the former president factor into his plans? Here's everything you need to know:

What has Cruz said about running for president?

He certainly hasn't ruled it out. In early September, Cruz told The Washington Examiner he would wait to make a decision regarding 2024 until he's sure of Trump's presidential plans, noting that any potential Republican contender claiming otherwise is "being dishonest about his or her internal deliberations."

"There are a lot of candidates out there feeling their oats and boasting, 'I'm running no matter what. I don't care what Donald Trump says.' Anyone who says that is lying. That's an idiotic statement for someone to make who's actually thinking about running," Cruz said. "[Trump] was the last Republican president, and one of the prerogatives that comes with that is he gets to decide what he's going to do, and then, everyone else will decide accordingly."

To that end, the Texas senator recently predicted that if Trump doesn't run, well, "everybody runs," he said. "[In] 2016, we had 17 Republican candidates, I think this time around, on the over-under, I'd take the over. I think we'll have 20 or more."

Regardless, Cruz will definitely run for re-election to the Senate in 2024, even if he decides against the White House. And he could also do both, since Texas law would allow him to run in each race simultaneously. But his apparent hesitancy toward declaring makes sense, "despite the fact that he loves campaigning and desperately wants to run for president again," the Examiner adds. Trump remains a formidable and unmatched presence among voters, and "Cruz understands that."

But perhaps it wasn't always that way. In December of 2021, when Trump had only hinted at running (as opposed to his more obvious overtures as of late), Cruz told the Truth Gazette that he'd run in 2024 "in a heartbeat," describing the 2016 contest as "the most fun I ever had in my life." Plus, "there's a reason historically that the runner-up is almost always the next nominee," the senator continued. "And that's been true going back to Nixon or Reagan, or McCain or Romney. That's played out repeatedly. You come in with just an enormous base of support."

Is Cruz doing anything now that suggests a run is imminent?

Yes. Cruz has stumped for multiple Republican midterm candidates across a number of states this fall, including Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada — all three of which happen to be "home to early contests on the GOP presidential nominating calendar," Politico writes. Such efforts are customary "for those looking to run nationally," thereby suggesting Cruz is laying the groundwork for a 2024 run. Traveling to different states "helps potential White House aspirants introduce themselves to voters, earn chits, and deepen their relationships with activists who play an influential role in the nominating contest," Politico explains.

Then, of course, there are Cruz's previous comments regarding historical precedent, in which he suggested it's somewhat typical of the Republican party to nominate the runner-up of one election for the top spot in the next.

What have other people said?

David Drucker, who authored the Examiner article and spoke with Cruz in September, thinks the Texas senator might be waiting for Trump not necessarily out of deference, but because he just doesn't want to lose again.

"If Donald Trump runs, it's a completely different Republican primary than if he doesn't, and Cruz wants to know where he stands if he decides to pull the trigger. I know that he wants to run, he tells everybody he wants to run, and that's not hyperbole," Drucker told CBS News. "What I don't think he wants to do is go through what he went through in 2016. I don't think he wants to think it's futile from the very outset." For what it's worth, Drucker continued, it's also normal for a candidate to wait until after the midterms to announce his or her plan. The only reason this is even a discussion at the moment is because of Trump. 

Cruz also placed sixth in a ranking of possible 2024 Republican candidates organized by Washington Post staff writer Aaron Blake. Blake ordered his top prospects by ascending likeliness, with the former president at No. 1 and his son, Donald Trump Jr., at No. 10.

And for his part, CNN's Chris Cillizza expects Cruz to definitely run if Trump decides against a bid, and to maybe run if Trump doesn't. If it's the latter, well, all this "pre-show" hullabaloo probably won't matter — Trump is still, "without question," the dominant figure in the Republican Party, and "the 2022 primary season largely affirmed" that, Cillizza said. It doesn't mean no one will run against him in 2024, but it does significantly lower the odds of that happening.

As for public preference, 4 percent of registered voters planning to vote in the 2024 Republican primary told The New York Times they'd vote for Cruz if the contest were held today. Otherwise, 49 percent said they would vote for Trump; 26 percent said they would vote for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R); and 6 percent said they would vote for former Vice President Mike Pence. (The New York Times and Siena College surveyed 792 registered voters by phone from Oct. 9-12, 2022. Results have a margin of error of +/- 4.0 percentage points.)

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