Republicans fighting to defund Obamacare were betting that Democrats from Republican-leaning states would join their effort to derail the unpopular health care reforms rather than face scornful voters in next year's elections. They lost.
Red-state Democrats like Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas stuck with President Obama and protected his greatest legislative achievement against the GOP assault, in part because they never really believed they had anything to fear from voters back home.
President Obama had won re-election and Democrats picked up two Senate seats in the 2012 elections in which Obamacare was an issue, they reasoned.
Moreover, polls consistently showed that while voters didn't like Obamacare, they really didn't care for the Republican tactic of shutting down the government to force changes in the law. Those same voters said Republicans deserved most of the blame for the shutdown and ensuing chaos.
“I have a lot of criticisms of the health care law. But holding something hostage when we have important work to do … it was just absolutely the wrong form,” said Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who ran and won as an Obamacare supporter in North Dakota last year.
Heitkamp's office was flooded with messages from voters demanding that they support the defunding effort, but she reminded them that her support for Obamacare was made clear during the campaign.
“This is totally consistent with what I told the people of my state when I was elected,” she said of her support. “And I think that was the [GOP's] miscalculation.”
CRUZ GETS HERO'S WELCOME AFTER OBAMACARE FIGHT
Sen. Ted Cruz returned home to a hero's welcome following his ultimately futile fight to defund Obamacare, a sharp contrast to the harsh criticism he endured from fellow Republicans in Washington after his efforts shut down the government for 16 days.
"I've spent the past month in Washington, D.C., and it is terrific to be back in America," Cruz told a cheering crowd in Texas. "There are a few people in Washington saying some mean things [about me]. Who cares, because at the end of the day I don't work for the party bosses in Washington, I work for each and every one of you."
Cruz basked in the hometown cheers and standing ovations while his campaign organization raked in more than $1 million in the wake of the fight.
But the freshman senator and Tea Party favorite was quick to announce that he was getting back on the road again — making another trip to Iowa for a pair of political events certain to fuel speculation that all of his efforts are building toward a 2016 presidential bid.
JINDAL EXPANDS EFFORTS TO REBRAND GOP
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is expanding his efforts to rebrand the Republican Party by shifting voters' focus away from the repeated failures of congressional Republicans to the successes the GOP has been scoring on the state level.
The head of the Republican Governor's Association helped create America Next, a nonprofit think tank that will develop “conservative policy plans that can succeed in the real world.”
It's not enough for Republicans to assail Democratic programs and proposals, as congressional conservatives have, he said. The GOP also must offer real alternatives to those Democratic plans by applying conservative principles to public policy like education reform and energy.
“Conservatives have failed to articulate and sell a national policy agenda to the country, a vision of what conservative policies can accomplish when put into practice," Jindal said. "We've detailed the awful things the Obama administration has done, all the failings of the Left, and we've pledged to undo as much of that as we can. However, the American people demand more than that, and they should."