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November 02, 2013 9:49 AM Open Warfare

By Martin Longman

Rightly or wrongly, freshman Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is seen as the man who is responsible for the recent government shutdown. As a result, a small plurality of Republicans now see Cruz as their party’s leader. That is not helping him deal with the simmering resentment he has aroused on Capitol Hill among his colleagues. On Wednesday, Cruz had to offer an olive branch to infuriated members of his caucus by promising not to openly support the Senate Conservatives Fund’s efforts to defeat them in next year’s primaries.

The day before, the SCF had announced that they would spend $330,000 to try to defeat Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. They had already run blistering ads against “dozens of Republican senators for rejecting Cruz’s tactics in the budget showdown that led to a 16-day federal shutdown.”

The Establishment reacted with fury, threatening to never do business again with any firm that does work for the SCF. High-level staff at the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) blasted away with threats and insults.

“We’re not going to do business with people who profit off of attacking Republicans,” said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the committee. “Purity for profit is a disease that threatens the Republican Party.”
…And on Friday, one of Mr. McConnell’s closest aides offered a vivid metaphor about the leader’s determination.
“S.C.F. has been wandering around the country destroying the Republican Party like a drunk who tears up every bar they walk into,” said Josh Holmes, Mr. McConnell’s chief of staff, now detailed to the National Republican Senatorial Committee through the election. “The difference this cycle is that they strolled into Mitch McConnell’s bar and he doesn’t throw you out, he locks the door.”

Incumbent Senate Republicans are getting plenty of assistance from inside the Beltway, with columnist Kathleen Parker writing that “It’s time to dump the tea party in the Potomac,” and Jennifer Rubin writing that people like Sen. Cruz “have very little appeal outside the tight-knit web of ideological true-believers” and that “[t]here have to be reality-based voices to push back and to encourage those figures who might actually appeal beyond the base.”

Long Island Republican congressman Peter King is still out there screaming his head off, calling Ted Cruz “a fraud,” “a false prophet,” and arguing that he is leading the party “into the Valley of Death.”

But protest as the Establishment might, the only time the Republican base has shown an increase in their approval of the party was when they were following Ted Cruz’s dead end plan to repeal ObamaCare.

During the shutdown Congressional Republicans had actually received a bump in their approval because their own party base expressed approval of them (52/39) but they’ve dropped back down to 39/53. The drop is probably because even though 66% of Americans overall thought the shutdown was a bad thing to only 25% who thought it was good, 39% of GOP voters believe the shutdown was a good thing for the country.

The base of the party wants non-stop confrontation and they are absolutely heedless of the likely political consequences. The more the Establishment pushes back, the lower their numbers go. And, with a 6% approval rating in the latest Public Policy Polling poll, Congress is already in a competition for popularity with the margin of error.

Martin Longman is the Web Editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune. He has worked as a community organizer for ACORN/Project Vote and as a political consultant for Democracy for America.

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