Story highlights

Speculation has abounded that Cruz would step aside to prepare for a 2020 White House run

Many strategists believe Cruz would be better served to skip a Senate re-election campaign in 2018

Washington CNN  — 

Sen. Ted Cruz said Tuesday that he plans to run for re-election in Texas, putting to rest speculation that he may step aside to prepare for another run at the White House in 2020.

“Yes,” Cruz told CNN when asked if he would run again. He didn’t elaborate on his thinking.

Cruz’s comments come as he returns to Capitol Hill this week for the first time since dropping his presidential bid.

He has yet to endorse Donald Trump, stoking speculation that he is angling for another run in four years.

Many strategists believe Cruz would be better served to skip a Senate re-election campaign in 2018 and instead focus on his presidential ambitions. While Cruz may ultimately decide not to run for re-election, his comments are clearly aimed at tamping down speculation that he will quit the Senate. On Wednesday Cruz officially reactivated his Senate campaign account, stating in a letter to the Federal Election Commission that he “is no longer a candidate for President of the United States.”

Later Wednesday, Cruz sat down for lunch with Senate Republicans, according to several senators who were at the meeting. Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who endorsed Cruz for president, made some introductory remarks, and Cruz himself addressed the group. The senators who were present said Cruz – who often railed against what he said was the “Washington cartel” during his presidential campaign – was warmly received and received a round of applause.

A low-key affair

Cruz’s first foray back onto the Senate floor since ending his Republican presidential bid was a low key affair, with only a handful of senators acknowledging their often-controversial colleague.

When he arrived for a morning roll call, he spoke briefly with Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, who was trying to corral votes for an amendment to block the U.S. from buying heavy water from Iran. Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina patted Cruz on the back and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, who voted for Cruz in his state’s primary, shook his hand.

“Wild ride,” Cruz could be heard saying to them while shaking his head and looking at the floor.

A few others senators said hello. Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia gave him a fist bump on his arm to get is attention and then spoke for a few minutes. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Indiana, said “welcome back.” Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, stood talking with him for several minutes.

“It’s good to be back,” Cruz could be heard telling Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, as she slipped past him to leave the floor.

But for the most part, the activity of the busy chamber swirled around Cruz, with most senators not paying attention to him. That could be because the freshman senator has frustrated and angered many of his colleagues by forcing weekend votes, overnight sessions and a high-profile shutdown of the government that many Republicans believe hurt their party.

GOP leaders such as McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. John Cornyn, the senior senator from Texas, were nearby but didn’t approach Cruz. Top Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, were a few steps from Cruz but didn’t seem to notice or care he was back. Instead, the leaders were intently focused on the legislative business at hand.

Only Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who is the most senior Republican in the chamber, pulled Cruz aside to have a heart-to-heart discussion about what Cruz had been through and what he will do now that he’s back to his legislative duties.

“I was encouraging him to really get to work here,” Hatch told CNN later. “He’s got a lot of talent, a lot of ability.”

Hatch, who chastised Cruz last year when the Texan called McConnell a liar, said he didn’t tell Cruz he should make amends with his fellow senators but he did say he should be more open to the views of others.

“I just encouraged him to understand that people have differences of opinions,” Hatch said. “He’s got a big role to play here if he wants to.”