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September 25, 2013 11:10 AM The Ghost Caucus

By Ed Kilgore

While Ted Cruz has approximately zero chance of gaining sufficient Republican support to defeat a cloture motion later today that will set terms for debate on the House-passed continuing resolution (he’d need 41 of the 46 Senate GOPers), his cadre of supporters (as counted by the Senate Conservative Fund) is an interesting group. There’s his fellow hard-core conservative resistance advocate Mike Lee, of course, and all-around reactionary warhorses Jeff Sessions and Jim Inhofe. There’s Mike Enzi, who is trying to head off a right-bent primary challenge from Liz Cheney. There’s Pat Roberts, who is in the middle of a rightward pivot that has successfully squelched a potential primary challenge. There’s David Vitter, who’s probably running for governor of Louisiana in 2015, and who has made the alleged Obamacare “exemption” for congressional employees his signature anti-Washington “populist” venture. And there’s Marco Rubio, who is struggling on every available front to repair the horrific damage to his movement-conservative street cred self-inflicted by his involvement in the Senate Gang of Eight comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Outside the ranks of current senators, Cruz’s cause has even more adherents, as Dave Wiegel notes today:

[A]lmost every Republican running for Senate, especially those challenging incumbents, has agreed to Stand With Cruz and Lee.
-Iowa’s Sam Clovis (running for an open seat) says in a statement: “I will work to support Senator Cruz and his mission to totally defund Obamacare. I signed the pledge to defund Obamacare, and I will stand with that pledge.”
- South Carolina’s Nancy Mace, running against Sen. Lindsey Graham: “I believe defunding Obamacare, and ultimately repealing this bill is not only the best option, but the only option legislators have to address this policy before it imposes even more damage on our healthcare system and the greater economy.”
- Matt Bevin, challenging Sen. Mitch McConnell: “Like so many other crucial fights, Mitch McConnell has caved to Harry Reid on Obamacare and is refusing to fight to defund this disastrous legislation. There is really no difference between Mitch McConnell and Alison Grimes - both would vote on the side of Harry Reid. I am proud to support conservatives like Sen. Ted Cruz in his fight to defund Obamacare, and I promise the people of Kentucky: I will never cave to Harry Reid.”
In Colorado, Montana, and Nebraska, there are literally zero Republican candidates who say they’d vote for cloture this week. Obviously, they won’t be in Congress this week. But who’s to say that the “use our gerrymandered House majority to set up defunding fight” gambit won’t be deployed in 2015, or 2017?

So candidates counting on conservative activist support and “base” enthusiasm in 2014 are stampeding in Cruz’ direction. To that extent, they represent the Ghost of Conservative Uprisings past, present and future, and Senate votes aside, that carries inestimable weight in the internal dynamics of the conservative movement and the GOP.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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