Ted Cruz warns Texas will be 'hotly contested' in 2020

By Marianne LeVine

Sen. Ted Cruz is sounding the alarm on Texas.

During a Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Thursday, Cruz warned that Texas will be “hotly contested” in 2020. He said that while he had confidence his colleague Republican Sen. John Cornyn and President Donald Trump would win the state, both will face a “serious race.”

“I think the Texas election in 2018 is powerful foreshadowing for what to expect across the country in 2020,” Cruz said, referring to his reelection battle against former Rep. Beto O’Rourke. “The Democrats in Texas increased their turnout more than 100 percent.”

Cruz reflected on his own contest against O’Rourke, noting that the Texas Democrat outspent his campaign “3 to 1” and that his Senate race was the most expensive in history. Cruz beat O’Rourke by about 2.6 percentage points.

Cruz further predicted that there will be “record-shattering” Democratic turnout in 2020 and that Republicans will need to turn out other voters.

“The far left is pissed off, they hate the president and that is a powerful motivator,” Cruz said. “If the left shows up in massive numbers and everybody else doesn’t that’s how we end up with an incredibly damaging election.”

Cruz, however, said he wasn't too concerned by the recent wave of Republican retirements in the House, attributing some of them to frustration with being in the minority. At least five Texas Republicans in the House, including Rep. Will Hurd, have said they will not seek reelection in 2020.

Cruz reflected that the party needed to do more to reach out to suburban women, as well as African American voters.

“If we lose Texas, it’s game over,” Cruz said. “I don’t believe Texas will turn blue but central to that is we’re going to have to work to communicate and turn people out.”

During the breakfast, Cruz also warned that going too far on gun control measures could turn away Republican voters motivated by the Second Amendment. Cruz’s remarks come after mass shootings in Texas killed 22 people in El Paso and seven people in Odessa.

“If Republicans abandon the Second Amendment and demoralize millions of Americans who care deeply about Second Amendment rights that could go a long way to electing a President Elizabeth Warren,” Cruz said.

Cruz told reporters that so-called red flag laws, under which a law enforcement official or family member could petition a court to order the removal of weapons from an individual who is a threat to themselves or to others could be a potential way to address gun violence. But he said that implementation of such laws should be done at the state level.

When asked about a forthcoming proposal from Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) that would provide grants to states to implement red flags, Cruz responded it’s “a mistake for the federal government to go down this road.” Cruz also appeared skeptical of a proposal from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) that would expand background checks to all commercial sales and is among the proposals the White House is considering.

“I think it would be a mistake,” when asked if Manchin Toomey would abandon the Second Amendment. “I think the objective of the congressional Democrats pushing it is to undermine the Second Amendment. Their objective is gun confiscation.”