Donald Trump is applauding the prospect of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry mounting a possible primary challenge against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, saying, "Boy, will he do well."
At a fundraiser in downtown Austin, Trump was standing next to Perry when he was asked about the Texan's chance to unseat his state's junior senator. Cruz, who unsuccessfully fought Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, notably declined to endorse him at last month's GOP national convention and faces re-election in 2018.
In a recording of the event first posted online by a Democratic group, the Lone Star Project, Trump answers that he's been "hearing a lot about that."
"I don't know if he wants to do it, but boy, will he do well," Trump says of Perry. "People love him in Texas. And he was one great governor."
Two fundraiser attendees verified the recording on Wednesday on the condition that their names not be published. The fundraiser occurred Tuesday.
Trump hasn't been shy about criticizing fellow Republicans — even those up for re-election. He initially declined to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan's re-election bid earlier this summer, then formally threw his support behind it before Ryan crushed a primary challenger in his Wisconsin district.
Cruz sparked an outcry at the GOP convention in Cleveland last month by refusing to endorse Trump during his prime-time speech — rebuffing calls for Republican Party unity behind its nominee.
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Perry left office last year and was a harsh Trump critic as he briefly ran for the Republican presidential nomination, even calling the billionaire businessman a cancer on conservatism. Perry has since endorsed Trump and become a surrogate who has praised him on national television.
The former governor has kept a low profile since dropping out of the 2016 presidential race last fall. Recent polls suggest Cruz's popularity in Texas has suffered since his convention speech, and one even indicated that Perry would top Cruz in a hypothetical matchup.
Those close to Perry say he's laughed off the idea of a Senate run, but Perry hasn't publicly ruled it out.
While running for president, Cruz originally said he'd endorse whoever the eventual Republican nominee was. He said later he'd changed his mind because Trump insulted his family during the bitter White House campaign.
Mica Mosbacher, an Austin resident and former finance co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, was a vocal supporter of Cruz's presidential run but is now is backing Trump.
"I am deeply disappointed in our senator that he did not honor his pledge," Mosbacher said by phone Wednesday, referring to Cruz's reneging support for Trump. "And I, along with a lot of other donors, are very upset."