The latest storm to descend on the U.S. capitol is Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who blew into town two months ago and has stayed on the front pages ever since. A freshman to the Senate, Cruz’s brash behavior has rankled colleagues on both sides of the political aisle and caught the attention of the press. The New York Times called him “an ornery, swaggering piece of work” , while the New Yorker is asking “Is Sen. Ted Cruz Our New McCarthy?” More Republican-friendly venues, such as the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard, have lauded the 42-year-old’s unconventional starting term.
Freshmen senators traditionally begin their terms quietly, sitting practically unnoticed on committees and casting votes, lemming-like, along party lines. Not so Mr. Cruz. In the news most recently for spitting fire over former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Defense Secretary, he successfully stalled Hagel’s nomination for several weeks. The Texas upstart is creating waves.
Media outlets are divided on their opinions of Sen. Cruz, but they’re all talking about him. During his campaign, the Texas Republican told constituents he was going to shake things up in Washington. So far, that’s one campaign promise he’s kept.
THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Sen. Ted Cruz. At the beginning of the year, almost no one outside Texas (and even many in the Lone Star State) knew who he was, and now everyone has something to say about him.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: Make a splash at the outset. Congress is a big, noisy place and it can be hard to distinguish oneself amidst 535 people intent on doing the same. Unlike the more raucous House of Representatives, the Senate is considered a thoughtful and well-mannered chamber, and it’s too early to tell whether Mr. Cruz’s strategy will serve him well. Ultimately, the junior senator from Texas will need to form alliances to get votes to go his way, but so far his PR impact has been substantial enough to make his colleagues realize one thing: ultimately, they will need to court him as much as he needs to court them.