The deeply unpopular Texas senator made the mistake of messing with Texas.

Texas Republican Ted Cruz is quite possibly the least popular member of the Senate. Ever.

His fellow Republican Lindsey Graham famously joked during the 2016 presidential primaries that “if you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody could convict you.”

Cruz, whose Republican colleagues in the Senate have blasted him over the years for his inability to play well with others, is not doing much better with his fellow Texans. During an interview at the Texas Tribune Festival with the state’s senior senator, John Cornyn, and Tribune CEO Evan Smith, Cruz demonstrated again why he is so universally unlikable — by attacking the very people he represents.

CRUZ: I for one am not a fan of rich, spoiled athletes disrespecting the flag. [boos]

SMITH: But the reality is —

CRUZ: And I will say that those in college that find that interesting —

SMITH: I think there may be some older people booing also. I don’t think it’s only college people booing. But keep going. [applause]

CRUZ: Evan, I don’t doubt that the People’s Republic of Travis County — [boos]

SMITH: Your constituents, you mean? Your constituents.

Cruz’s gratuitous attempted smear of the people of Travis County — people he represents — was part of a larger conversation about the plainly racist attacks on black athletes who kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality, accusing them of disrespecting the flag, the national anthem, and even members of the military who have fought and died for our country.

It’s a disingenuous argument, which did not stop Cruz from making it. And his argument was not well received by the people in the audience, who booed him loudly and repeatedly. But to Cruz, those people who would demonstrate their disagreement can be written off, smeared, and derided.

It’s an odd tactic to take for a man who is up for re-election next year. Texas, after all, is typically thought of as a safely red state.

But Cruz is so toxic, so disliked, so incapable of getting along with even members of his own party, that he has drawn a serious Democratic challenger, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is raising very serious money — the overwhelming majority of which is coming from inside the state. You would think a senator whose approval rating is embarrassingly low would try not to alienate the very people whose votes he will need next year.

It’s a strong indication that Cruz could have a real struggle to keep his Senate seat next year. Bashing his fellow Texans is not likely to help.


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