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President Trump To Campaign For Former Rival Sen. Ted Cruz

Oct 22, 2018
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President Trump is campaigning a lot for Republicans facing a tough election. Tonight he will be in Houston stumping for his former political rival, Senator Ted Cruz, who's trying to hold off a challenge from Democratic Congressman Beto O'Rourke. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea has been traveling with the president and found Republican candidates happy to have him on their side even when the president and the candidates share a complicated history.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Let's start in Nevada. Not long before the 2016 election, Senator Dean Heller, himself not on the ballot then, was quoted as saying he was 99 percent against Trump. Of course that same comment had him 100 percent against Hillary Clinton. Now Trump is President. Heller is on the ballot. And, well, here he is this past weekend.

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DEAN HELLER: This president is doing a great job.

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GONYEA: That's Heller at a Trump rally in the town of Elko, Nev. It's a place known for its gold mines. And Heller talked about gold as Trump stood nearby onstage, nodding approvingly.

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HELLER: Now, Mr. President, you know a little bit about gold. In fact, I think everything you touch turns to gold.

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GONYEA: For his part, Trump made sure people knew that Heller has been there for him in the Senate, especially with Supreme Court nominations.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And by the way, I have to thank Dean Heller for helping us with Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh. Dean Heller was there.

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GONYEA: Now to Arizona and another GOP candidate who once kept Trump at arm's length, Congresswoman Martha McSally. She is in a tough race for an open Senate seat. McSally, a former fighter pilot, was at Trump's side as he toured an Air Force Base on Friday and again later at a big outdoor rally. Here's the president.

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TRUMP: Martha's a veteran, a great veteran, a great fighter, a warrior and the first female fighter pilot to fly combat missions in American history. Think of that. She's the first.

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GONYEA: Of course you never know exactly what the president will say once he comes to town. He can spend more time talking about his own election in 2016 than he does on getting out the vote in 2018. In Montana just days ago, he promoted the Senate candidacy of Republican Matt Rosendale but got far more attention for what he said about another local politician, Congressman Greg Gianforte. He is best known around the country as the guy who body-slammed a journalist who was attempting to ask him a question last year. In Missoula, Trump celebrated that attack.

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TRUMP: And by the way, never wrestle him.

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TRUMP: You understand that? Never. Any guy that can do a body slam, he's my candidate.

GONYEA: Which brings us to tonight. In Texas, Senator Ted Cruz has long since made up with Trump after they waged an ugly battle, both political and personal, for the GOP presidential nomination. Back then, after Trump denigrated his wife's looks in a tweet, Cruz responded with this.

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TED CRUZ: I don't get angry often, but you mess with my wife, you mess with my kids, that'll do it every time. Donald, you're a sniveling coward, and leave Heidi the hell alone.

GONYEA: Don't expect any such talk tonight as Trump and Cruz share the stage. No mentions of lying Ted. Some playful references to past differences, perhaps, but outwardly at least two politicians happy to be supporting one another, hoping to stave off a challenge to Cruz's re-election, all with the purpose of hanging onto slim GOP control of the U.S. Senate. Don Gonyea, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.