Ted Cruz's campaign to defund Obamacare has caused a split within the conservative movement, pitting elements closer to the party's grass-roots activist base against the GOP establishment. At issue is not only Cruz's chosen strategy — a pseudo filibuster — but indeed Cruz himself. To the grass roots, he is a brave iconoclast, willing to buck members of his own party in an all-out effort to defund Obamacare. To the establishment, however, Cruz is a preening narcissist who's only looking to raise his profile and benefit himself.
Among those who support Cruz is none other than Rush Limbaugh, arguably the most influential figure among the conservative grass roots. Limbaugh endorsed Cruz's campaign Wednesday, calling it a fight "for the soul of the Republican Party," and describing Cruz as "doing exactly what he was elected to do." From Politico:
Limbaugh also blasted the implication by the “Washington establishment, the Republican establishment” that Cruz has been influenced by talk radio to pursue the effort to defund Obamacare.
“He doesn’t need any pressure,” he said. “The man is not a coward. Ted Cruz isn’t afraid of anybody. The real question is, what is the Republican establishment afraid of?”
Glenn Beck has also praised Cruz for his epic speech, saying, "Ted Cruz does not have a hair out of place ... he is a machine.” Beck went on to laud Cruz for inspiring "a debate on healthcare and a discussion on healthcare that was reasoned, was telling the truth, wasn’t yelling and screaming. It was just, ‘Look, this is the fact. This is what’s gonna happen.'"
But not every Republican is quite so enamored. The conservative Daily Caller, for example, ran a mocking Op-Ed by senior editor Jamie Weinstein titled "How Ted Cruz and defund Obamacare can win — in just 6 steps." A sense of the piece's tone can be found by looking to Step 1: "A meteor hits Joe Biden." Weinstein continues:
Step Two: With Biden temporarily (it was a small meteor) unable to perform his duties as vice president, Barack Obama shocks the political world by nominating Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert to replace him.
“I really do love the book Team of Rivals,” Obama declares at the press conference. “And Louie makes great ribs.”
Acceding to the president’s wishes, Gohmert is rapidly confirmed by Congress.
And so on.
Weinstein isn't alone. Perhaps the most vocal of Cruz's critics is Jen Rubin, the Washington Post's conservative blogger, who wrote of Cruz, "I can’t think of a man less Reaganesque in approach and style," while also describing him as someone who appeals "to his base’s basest emotions — anger, paranoia, resentment, radical fervor" in order to "elevate himself." With evident disdain, Rubin sarcastically calls Cruz "a big deal" before closing:
The smart conservatives who told us Cruz was brilliant may not have been wrong. But they should have assessed his character more carefully. Perhaps they now will.
Of course, no rundown of Cruz's Republican critics would be complete without mention of Peter King, the Long Island congressman who has frequently made headlines by taking shots at the junior senator from Texas. King's antipathy for Cruz is no less than Rubin's, though his rhetoric is more characteristically blunt: "He's a fraud," said King to the New York Times.