Who’s Jockeying To Be the Next Ted Cruz?

Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel is challenging Sen. Thad Cochran. 
National Journal
Add to Briefcase
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.”


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.