“Senator Cruz was playing politics in 2012, trying to make himself look like the biggest conservative in the world,” Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said in 2017. “What I said at the time, both to him and to everyone else, was if you represent a coastal state, don’t do this, because your day is going to come.”
In the end, it was another man who would successfully leverage Mr. Cruz’s firebrand tactics into the presidency. After a 2016 primary campaign in which he called Mr. Trump a “pathological liar,” a “serial philanderer,” an “utterly amoral” conspiracy-monger and a peerless narcissist, Mr. Cruz embarked on a major reputational repair campaign aimed at wooing back the new president and the conservative base that supported him.
Mr. Cruz’s ability to seemingly set aside some deeply personal insults — Mr. Trump suggested Mr. Cruz’s wife was unattractive and insinuated without evidence that his father had been involved in the John F. Kennedy assassination — became further evidence for his critics of the senator’s shameless political posturing. This year, he led the charge to reverse Mr. Trump’s election loss, loudly promoting his baseless claims of fraud and perpetuating conservative fantasies about a stolen election. Last week, he defended the former president’s speech at his rally before the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, saying his words were not an impeachable offense.
“Until Donald Trump came along, this guy was the biggest performer in conservative politics,” said Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio and housing secretary. “He was the one that was trying to position himself as the id of the conservative moment.”
Mr. Castro added, “He comes off as fake and he comes off as much more concerned about himself than anyone else.”
Texas Democrats like Mr. Castro saw fresh opportunities in the trip to Cancún, quickly calling for Mr. Cruz’s resignation. Republican officials in the state, many sitting in their own cold homes, largely stayed silent.
“Candidly, I haven’t been following people’s vacation plans,” Gov. Greg Abbott told reporters at a news conference on Thursday.