October 17, 2013

Ted Cruz: Corrosive or courageous?

Establishment Republicans chide Sen. Ted Cruz as divisive, but tea partyers see a leader.

By Donna Cassata
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, walks with security after talking to reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. A number of Republicans have castigated Cruz during the shutdown impasse, including Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who said Cruz was “fraudulent from the start.”

The Associated Press

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Further riling the GOP is the reality that shutdown and the default threat have overshadowed the problem-plagued rollout of the health care markets on Oct. 1 despite Republican efforts to highlight the programs’ woes.

In private, Republicans have been dismissive and confrontational with Cruz, say lawmakers and congressional aides.

At one meeting, Cruz presented his own poll numbers and argued that Republicans weren’t suffering despite the overwhelming evidence suggesting they were, prompting eye-rolling from his colleagues.

At a subsequent meeting, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., asked whether Cruz would disavow efforts by the Senate Conservatives Fund, a group founded by former South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint that has been running ads in states with GOP incumbents, challenging them to support the “defund Obamacare” quest.

McConnell, who faces similar ads in his state as he seeks a sixth term next year, joined with Ayotte in questioning Cruz, who was noncommittal.

More recently, the Texas senator insisted that Senate Republicans could force a vote on a House-passed bill to ease the pain of the shutdown for military veterans, seemingly unaware of Senate rules. He didn’t give a convincing explanation how that could be done, considering that the Republican Senate minority has no power to set the agenda. Cruz appeared to be resting his hopes on a strategic stumble by Reid, a 26-year Senate veteran.

Yet for all the internal back-biting, Cruz stands as the Teflon tea partyer, winning over conservatives.

At the Values Voter Summit this past weekend, an annual gathering of social conservatives and evangelicals, participants echoed Cruz and Lee’s determination not to back down.

Lee brought activists to their feet when he said he was still working with Cruz to strip money from the law.

LOOKING FOR A STANDARD-BEARER

“We make no apologies. We stand with you,” Lee said, drawing loud applause.

In imploring conservatives to remain vigilant, Cruz quoted the 1995 film “The Usual Suspects,” and Keyser Soze’s assessment that the “the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist.” Cruz’ variation: “the greatest trick the left has ever played is to convince conservatives we cannot win.”

Cruz won the organization’s straw poll on Saturday with 42 percent, well ahead of former presidential candidate Rick Santorum and Dr. Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon.

Dennis Bussey of Richmond, Va., said many conservatives are searching for a new standard-bearer and he was impressed by Cruz’s reception.

“We’re looking for someone — maybe not a hero but maybe we do need a hero,” he said.

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