Ted Cruz’s 2016 Presidential Hopes Take a Hit

Pew is out with a new poll today that confirms that Sen. Ted Cruz’s #DefundObamacare strategy was viewed favorably by the Tea Party and horribly by all other Republicans.

Poll Ted Cruz

Before the shutdown, 47% of the Tea Party viewed him as favorable, compared with just 10% who didn’t. Not surprising, he’s even more popular now. He’s gone from a +37 favorable to a +66. He’s clearly a Tea Party hero, but he already was a Tea Party hero. He didn’t need to choose a futile strategy, shut the government down, piss off the Republican establishment and surrender without accomplishing anything. Ted Cruz failed mightily, but the Tea Party is very happy with him for putting up the fight.

The rest of Republicans? Not so much. His unfavorables nearly doubled and he went from a +10 to -6 in net favorables. That’s really bad.

So, did Cruz help himself or hurt himself for his 2016 chances?

There are two different schools of thought. One is that he first needs to win the primary and that will require Tea Party support. In that regard, his plan was a huge success. The other school of thought is that he will need money and the backing of the Republican establishment as well. Clearly he has failed there.

The reason that this has been such a disaster for him is that he already was a Tea Party favorite. If he hadn’t gone on this wild goose chase, his favorables wouldn’t have improved, but they probably wouldn’t have fallen either. No one else was going to use this strategy. If the Tea Party reacted negatively to congressional Republicans not using the government budget and debt ceiling to fight Obamacare, they would’ve taken it out evenly on all the 2016 GOP candidates (at least those in Congress). The blame would have been shared equally so it wouldn’t have put Cruz at a disadvantage. There wasn’t much of an upside or downside to not using the #Defund strategy.

On the other hand, there wasn’t much of an upside to using the strategy. Cruz became a Tea Party cult hero, but he already was well-regarded. There’s only so much he can improve. However, there was a large downside. The establishment found out who it doesn’t want in 2016. And that’s Ted Cruz. They hated every bit of this and are not going to forget quickly. These are the people who Cruz needs to fund his campaign and support him. They are also the people that he hadn’t convinced to support him in 2016. After the #Defund plan, they are all but certain to find a different candidate. That trumps any gains he made amongst the Tea Party. It’s a big setback for his 2016 presidential ambitions

Credit to Ted Cruz

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As you’ve no doubt heard, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is performing a pre-arraigned filibuster (I’m going to call it a filibuster) against the House passed continuing resolution that defunds Obamacare. Cruz has no chance of stopping the actual bill from moving forward since Republicans are not going to vote against cloture (allowing debate on the bill to proceed) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will strip the defunding language from it in an amendment that only needs 51 votes to pass (can’t be filibustered). Cruz’s filibuster here is entirely a political stunt. But that’s part of what makes it so impressive.

Many conservatives today are upset that the mainstream media isn’t paying as much attention to Cruz as it did to Wendy Davis’s filibuster in the Texas State Senate in June. As you may remember, Davis’s filibuster was futile too. She was able to run out the clock on that legislative session, but soon after, Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) called for another special legislative session and the bill passed anyways. Davis was soon a national liberal hero and is considering running for governor.

Here’s the thing: Cruz’s filibuster is more impressive than Davis’s. 

Both Cruz and Davis were standing up for something they believed in, though they knew they were doomed to fail. They had grassroots supports and were entirely committed to their goals. However, Davis had the backing of the Democratic establishment and her Democratic colleagues. She didn’t risk alienating her fellow Democrats. On the contrary, it was certain to make her a national sensation.

The same is not true of Cruz. Before he began his filibuster, his Republican colleagues pleaded with him not to waste time and talk all night. They told him that doing so was give the House basically no time to pass a CR once the bill got back to them. It would hurt the party politically. Those senators have a point. That may happen, but Cruz ignored them anyways.

He’s also alienating Republican donors, something he’ll need if he runs for president in 2016. Those donors see Cruz’s filibuster as a cheap, parliamentary trick that accomplishes nothing and eventually puts the House in a tight stop.

Furthermore, his filibuster increases the chance of a government shutdown, as the party leadership pointed out to him. Like everyone, Cruz does not want a government shutdown, but he also knows this is his last chance to stop Obamacare. His filibuster will have no tangible accomplishments, but increases the risk of a fiscal crisis.

And despite all of that opposition – from the Republican establishment, Republican leadership and Republican donors – Cruz decided to filibuster the bill. He decided to risk alienating those key supporters to demonstrate his opposition to Obamacare. Say what you will about Cruz doing so just to gain political points, but he’s also risking a lot. He was already adored by the base. If he hadn’t performed this filibuster, the Tea Party may have been disappointed in him, but they wouldn’t have turned on him. He could’ve talked for a couple of hours, yielded the floor and allowed the vote on cloture to proceed. It wouldn’t have angered McConnell and donors and it would have made his point.But he decided to talk all night.

The base is going to LOVE this and rightfully so. Cruz really is bucking the establishment to stand up for what he believes in. Because of that, it’s unclear if his filibuster helps his presidential ambitions. It’s certainly not a good policy move. Liberals fell in love with Wendy Davis, but she never had to choose between siding with her colleagues and donors or standing up for what she believed in. Cruz had that choice and he chose to stick by his principles. He deserves credit for that.