Polls Show Shutdown Taking a Toll on Ted Cruz, Mike Lee

As the debate to end the shutdown drifts further from Obamacare, some who pushed hardest for its concessions may face political consequences.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 03: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) walks through the U.S. Capitol, October 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. Democrats and Republicans are still at a stalemate on funding for the federal government as the shut down goes into third day.
National Journal
Sophie Novack and Michael Catalini
Add to Briefcase
Sophie Novack Michael Catalini
Oct. 10, 2013, 3:25 p.m.

As the de­bate over re­open­ing gov­ern­ment and avoid­ing de­fault drifts fur­ther away from Obama­care, some who ad­voc­ated loudest for the plan to force Obama­care con­ces­sions on Demo­crats and the White House may start to feel re­per­cus­sions.

“The Sen­ate is a small enough body where over a re­l­at­ively short peri­od of time, you de­vel­op a pres­ence and a repu­ta­tion based on the ac­tions that you take,” said Sen. Johnny Isak­son, R-Ga. “That can have an ef­fect pos­it­ively or oth­er­wise on what you can do later on. When we’re elec­ted, we’re known for what we were. When you serve in the Sen­ate you’re known for what you are.”

While law­makers are re­luct­ant to openly snipe at Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, and their co­horts in the House, the strategy many say had no en­dgame has left a bit­ter taste be­hind.

“My per­son­al view is that we got in a fight we couldn’t win, and in the minor­ity that’s not a good place to be,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. “You need to pick your battles, and you need to pick your battles with the pres­id­ent in a way that you have a chance to achieve your goal.”

Even sen­at­ors aligned with the tea party have harsh words for the plan. “To me this con­firms what my mes­sage is, that this place is ut­terly broken and dys­func­tion­al,” said Sen. Ron John­son of Wis­con­sin.

Blunt sug­ges­ted that the im­pact may dis­sip­ate over time, and cer­tainly be­fore the next elec­tion. “I don’t know at this point it has a lot of real long-term im­pact,” he said.

But polls show the shut­down is tak­ing a toll on Cruz and Lee. Cruz’s net fa­vor­ab­il­ity plummeted 16 points since June, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Gal­lup poll. Roughly 36 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans have an un­fa­vor­able opin­ion of the ju­ni­or sen­at­or from Texas, while 26 per­cent have a fa­vor­able view, Gal­lup re­por­ted. A new poll out from Brigham Young Uni­versity shows Lee’s fa­vor­ab­il­ity down 10 points since June. Voters now see him un­fa­vor­ably, 51 per­cent to 40 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the poll.

Asked wheth­er Lee should hold to his prin­ciples in the gov­ern­ment shut­down or com­prom­ise on the Af­ford­able Care Act, 57 per­cent said he should be more will­ing to com­prom­ise, while 43 per­cent prefer he stick to his prin­ciples.

Still, Cruz stands be­hind his strategy, con­vinced it’s a win­ner, even as the debt-lim­it de­bate be­gins to come to the fore. “Obama­care re­mains Sen­at­or Cruz’s top fo­cus,” said Cruz spokes­wo­man Cath­er­ine Fra­zi­er. “We un­der­stand that our debt is un­pop­u­lar, but Obama­care is un­pop­u­lar too. If we stop Obama­care, we’ll have more jobs and de­crease the debt. It’s a win-win.”

Lee also re­mains com­mit­ted to the plan, and main­tains that there has not par­tic­u­larly been push­back from fel­low Re­pub­lic­ans. “Re­pub­lic­ans are in the driver’s seat now,” said Lee’s com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­or, Bri­an Phil­lips.

Ac­cord­ing to Phil­lips, the rocky first couple weeks of the ACA’s rol­lout sup­port the strategy. “It makes more sense for Re­pub­lic­ans to fight against Obama­care now. It’s no longer con­jec­ture about the ill ef­fects of the law.”

“Sen­at­or Lee is go­ing to let oth­er people worry about poll num­bers,” Phil­lips said, in ref­er­ence to the BYU find­ings. “He only wor­ries about the people call­ing in­to the of­fice, who are over­whelm­ingly in fa­vor of what he’s do­ing.”

For now, out­side groups re­main sup­port­ive of Cruz and Lee’s strategy. Her­it­age Ac­tion re­leased a state­ment Thursday re­af­firm­ing its com­mit­ment to fight­ing Obama­care through the on­go­ing fisc­al battles. “We do not sup­port clean debt ceil­ing in­creases, but be­cause Her­it­age Ac­tion is com­mit­ted to giv­ing House Lead­er­ship the flex­ib­il­ity they need to re­fo­cus the de­bate on Obama­care we will not key vote against the re­por­ted pro­pos­al,” CEO Mi­chael Need­ham wrote.

Wheth­er Cruz, Lee, and oth­ers have done long-term dam­age to their re­la­tion­ships with fel­low Re­pub­lic­ans is un­clear, but when GOP law­makers are asked, they of­ten point out two things: one, that re­la­tion­ships mat­ter, and two, that you can’t rule out work­ing to­geth­er again someday.

“I’ve been in one le­gis­lature or an­oth­er for 34 years, either in the state or in Con­gress, and most all you can do is based on your ac­cu­mu­lated repu­ta­tion and your will­ing­ness to work with oth­er people,” Isak­son said. “I’ve al­ways tried to be one that real­ized even a broken clock is right twice every 24 hours, so don’t ever rule any­body out.”

What We're Following See More »
Clinton Foundation Staffers Steered Biz to Bill
3 hours ago

"Two chief fundraisers for the Clinton Foundation pressed corporate donors to steer business opportunities to former President Bill Clinton as well, according to a hacked memo published Wednesday by WikiLeaks. The November 2011 memo from Douglas Band, at the time a top aide to Mr. Clinton, outlines extensive fundraising efforts that Mr. Band and a partner deployed on behalf of the Clinton Foundation and how that work sometimes translated into large speaking fees and other paid work for Mr. Clinton."

Chef Jose Andres Campaigns With Clinton
11 hours ago
House Investigators Already Sharpening Their Spears for Clinton
13 hours ago

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz plans to spend "years, come January, probing the record of a President Hillary Clinton." Chaffetz told the Washington Post: “It’s a target-rich environment. Even before we get to Day One, we’ve got two years’ worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain’t good.”

Clinton Super PAC Enters the House Fray
17 hours ago

Priorities USA, the super PAC aligned with the Clinton campaign, which has already gotten involved in two Senate races, is now expanding into House races. The group released a 30 second spot which serves to hit Donald Trump and Iowa Rep. Rod Blum, who is in a tough race to win re-election in Iowa's first congressional district. The super PAC's expansion into House and Senate races shows a high level of confidence in Clinton's standing against Trump.

House to Vote on Iran Sanctions Renewal in Lame Duck
17 hours ago

Republican House leaders are planning on taking up a vote to renew the Iran Sanctions Act as soon as the lame-duck session begins in mid-November. The law, which expires on Dec. 31, permits a host of sanctions against Iran's industries, defense, and government. The renewal will likely pass the House, but its status is unclear once it reaches the Senate, and a spokesman from the White House refused to say whether President Obama would sign it into law.


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.