Cruz declines to say whether he would endorse in primaries if president

Story highlights

  • Cruz told CNN in an interview that it was premature to say whether he would rule out endorsements from the White House
  • "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Cruz said on his campaign bus

Tupelo, Mississippi (CNN)Ted Cruz, who has become one of the conservative movement's most sought-after endorsements, declined to say Tuesday whether he would bestow these nods in Republican primaries if he was elected president.

Campaigning here alongside Chris McDaniel, who lost a nasty runoff in one of the tightest tea party-versus-establishment primaries of 2014, Cruz told CNN in an interview that it was premature to say whether he would rule out endorsements from the White House, something President Barack Obama has done only rarely.
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Cruz said on his campaign bus in Tennessee. "Lets wait until we've won some states, won the nomination and won the general, and then we'll worry about endorsement strategies in subsequent elections."
    McDaniel, who is Cruz's campaign chair in the Magnolia State, lost a high-profile race to Sen. Thad Cochran last year and rattled national Republicans by refusing to concede and charging that Cochran won the GOP primary fraudulently.
    Speaking on the back of a pickup truck at Connie's Fried Chicken on Tuesday morning, the Mississippi firebrand heaped praise on Cruz as the one of the few Republican senators to help him when establishment Republicans defeated him just a year ago.
    "When you're running against Thad Cochran, you're running against the entire establishment," McDaniel told CNN. "So to have one come out and defend me, it meant a lot to me."
    In the aftermath of that primary, Cruz said that Cochran "stole" the election by recruiting black, Democratic voters to vote for him and said McDaniels' allegations of impropriety should be "vigorously investigated."
    Here in northern Mississippi, Cruz praised McDaniel as a conservative fighter in his own mold and largely declined to relitigate the divisive Republican nomination battle. Asked by CNN if he stood by his comments, Cruz said he's focused on his own run, though he praised McDaniel's "historic election."
    But at a stop hours later in the Memphis suburb of Olive Branch, Cruz went further.
    "The behavior of the D.C. Republican establishment in that runoff was shameful," Cruz told reporters. "We need to be straightforward and honest with the voters in this country."
    Mississippians said that McDaniel remains a popular figure in the conservative movement -- at least one red-and-white "McDaniel for Senate" sign was spotted at both of the Cruz events.
    "The election was taken away from him," said Joe Peacock, who said McDaniel's imprimatur mattered. "Stolen!"
    McDaniel, for his part, continued to blast that same D.C. power structure. Cochran was saved in large part due to independent spending by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the business lobby generally allied with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and a growing player in Republican primaries.
    "Speak truth to power, even if his name is McConnell," the Mississippi legislator said, referring to Cruz's allegation on the Senate floor that McConnell lied to him. "Conservatives, look at me. We're awake again. There's nothing they can do to stop us."