Ted Cruz is not on the March 4 primary ballot.
But his likeness is all over TV and in campaign materials, as a slew of Republican candidates on the primary ballot are using his words and in rare occasions his endorsement to reach out to voters.
This year, having Cruz weigh in any way possible is political gold, said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.
His thumbs up for a candidate serves as a signal to Cruzs plethora of supporters within the GOP primary electorate who the true movement conservative in the race is, he said.
And that has made a number of candidates try to link themselves to the states junior senator any way possible.
Cruz skyrocketed to national attention in 2012 after defeating Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in a battle for U.S. Senate that turned into a classic Tea Party versus establishment Republican, David versus Goliath fight.
He has remained in headlines for constantly criticizing the Obama administration and the healthcare law.