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Is Ted Cruz Emerging from the Shutdown a Winner?

Andrew Burton/Getty Images News/Getty Images

In the wake of the government shutdown, it’s clear that Senator Ted Cruz has angered some members of his own party. In a lunch at The New Republic yesterday, Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist compared the last two weeks in the House of Representatives to rumspringa, in which Amish teenagers “go to the big city and do sinful things,” and then come home to more sensible ways of life (which he called “Boehner-world”). But as the dust settles, it seems Cruz has risen in the estimation of the vast majority of conservatives. “There’s no such thing as bad press,” as the saying goes.

Some conservative staff on the Hill think the shutdown and debt debate have cemented Cruz’s place as the Tea Party’s wunderkind, according to The National Review—a spot that was previously held by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. This morning, the Review printed a collection of anonymous quotes from GOP aides saying disparaging things about Rubio’s supposedly conciliatory personality and, in particular, his push for comprehensive immigration reform, which so tarnished his standing on the right last spring. “The base wants a leader who they feel is not going to sell them out,” said one. “They’re deeply distrustful of the establishment, and immigration is one of those issues where the base feels they were sold out.”

Cruz, meanwhile, has proved himself to be the kind of guy who will take the party line and do conservatives one better (or, more accurately, one up). The Review notes glowingly that his “voting record, as scored by Heritage Action, is a perfect 100 percent, compared to Rubio’s 86 percent.” And while this doesn’t sit well with all Republicans, it sits well with the ones who are at least nominally driving the ship: A Pew poll from earlier this week found that Cruz’s antics had propelled his favorability up nearly 30 points among Tea Party Republicans and his unfavorability up 15 among non-Tea Partiers. Among Republicans as a whole, he had gained 11 points of positive feeling—and a lot of visibility. 

With the crisis behind us, the 2016 predictions will be continuing apace, and it looks like Cruz will be leading the pack. “The base is not looking for a conciliator,” Al Cardenas, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, told the Review. “They’re not looking for someone who is good at compromising, who can make peace with the other side. They’re looking for someone who will stand up to a very aggressive, disrespectful liberal opposition that’s standing out there with bare knuckles winding up at us every chance they get.”