Who’s Jockeying To Be the Next Ted Cruz?

Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel is challenging Sen. Thad Cochran. 
National Journal
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Ben Terris
Oct. 21, 2013, 1 a.m.

Right now, hard-line con­ser­vat­ives would clone Ted Cruz if they could. But with 2014 around the corner, they might be able to do the next best thing.  (Face­book)

“To call me the next Ted Cruz,” says Chris McDaniel, who an­nounced last week that he would chal­lenge Thad Co­chran of Mis­sis­sippi, the second-most-seni­or Re­pub­lic­an in the Sen­ate. “I would cer­tainly con­sider that a com­pli­ment.”

McDaniel, who has been serving as a state sen­at­or since 2008, is ex­actly the type of can­did­ate whom es­tab­lish­ment Re­pub­lic­ans have been wor­ry­ing about, the kind who leads mod­er­ate-to-con­ser­vat­ive law­makers to dig their heels in with the right flank of their party so as not to be called wimpy. With­in mo­ments of an­noun­cing his can­did­acy, McDaniel earned the triple crown of con­ser­vat­ive en­dorse­ments: one from the Club for Growth, one from the Sen­ate Con­ser­vat­ive Fund, and one from the Madis­on Pro­ject. He has cri­ti­cized Co­chran for vot­ing in fa­vor of the deal that re­opened the gov­ern­ment and raised the debt ceil­ing.

To McDaniel, the shut­down was not a mis­take; the Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship “lacks pas­sion,” and he’s ready to come to D.C. to “do everything he can to put a stake in the heart of Obama­care.”

Can­did­ates out there like McDaniel are the Xanax for de­pressed con­ser­vat­ives. They know they’ve lost this par­tic­u­lar fight, but they can numb them­selves a bit be­liev­ing that re­in­force­ments are wait­ing in the wings.

“I think we are go­ing to be in a much stronger po­s­i­tion with up­com­ing [elec­tions],” Rep. Justin Amash, the Michigan Re­pub­lic­an, said. It’s part of the ar­gu­ment that con­ser­vat­ives like to make after each loss—that the reas­on for de­feat wasn’t be­cause people like them over­reached, but be­cause there wer­en’t enough oth­er people like them to stand strong.

“It’s pretty hard when [John Boehner] has a circle of 20 people that step up every day and say, ‘Can we sur­render today, Mr. Speak­er? Can we just go away? Can we make it easy?’ ” Rep. Tim Huel­skamp, R-Kan., said to a group of re­port­ers last week. “I would say the sur­render caucus is the whiner caucus, and all they do is whine about the battle, as if they thought be­ing elec­ted to Wash­ing­ton was go­ing to be an easy job.”

For tea party-type can­did­ates around the coun­try, the shut­down is per­haps the best thing that could have ever happened to their cam­paigns. Out in Idaho, Bry­an Smith has gid­dily watched as his op­pon­ent, Rep. Mike Simpson, has had to tie him­self in­to knots about how to deal with the de­fund­ing of Obama­care.

“What you have is a rep­res­ent­at­ive who was against it and then for it, against it again, but for it in the fu­ture,” Smith said in an in­ter­view. “It’s a good reas­on to send someone there who has been against fund­ing Obama­care from the be­gin­ning.”

Simpson was the only mem­ber of the Idaho del­eg­a­tion to vote to end the shut­down. He said it was be­cause it was the right thing to do for cit­izens of Idaho. Smith says Simpson did it out of fear. 

“I think we need to make our de­cisions — our votes are ser­i­ous and im­port­ant — based on prin­ciple, not based on fear,” he said. “If some­body is afraid, they may not con­sider their prin­ciples.”

Fear of eco­nom­ic col­lapse, fear of angry fur­loughed voters, fear of fall­ing out of lead­er­ship’s fa­vor. Like Cruz, Smith and McDaniel aren’t wor­ried about all that. 

“Maybe we should learn to fight again, and I’m ex­cited to be a part of it,” said McDaniel. “It’s go­ing to be fun.”