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Topics: Obamacare

Ted Cruz, Mike Lee called GOP leaders' bluff on Obamacare repeal

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Op-Eds,Obamacare,Senate,Republican Party,Mitch McConnell,Health Care,Ted Cruz,Analysis,John Cornyn

A curious moment happened on "Fox News Sunday." Chris Wallace told Karl Rove that a number of Republicans in Congress had sent him opposition research on Sen. Ted Cruz once Fox announced Cruz would be on.

Rove responded. He said this was all happening because Cruz, a Texas Republican, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, had not worked out strategy in the regular Senate Republican Conference lunches on Thursdays.

Rove said that was what was supposed to happen. Except that for a year now, Senate Republicans have routinely leaked the proceedings of those meetings to the New York Times and Washington Post in ways designed to harm Cruz, Lee, and others who side with them.

In fact, as one senator noted in last week's meeting, this would not be happening but for Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., choosing not to lead.

Had Lee and Cruz approached their Senate colleagues, they would have been dismissed. I can say this confidently because it has happened repeatedly, and since their election to the Senate their Republican colleagues have routinely taken to “on background” leaks assailing them.

I doubt Rove is that tuned-out. He simply disagrees with the Cruz-Lee strategy and has been very vocal about how terrible he thinks it is.

But the strategy is actually quite marvelous, and Rove has to be smart enough to know what is actually going on. Now it is time for everyone else to see the bigger picture.

Let's be clear here -- absent the American people lending a loud, clear voice for Cruz and Lee, the Republicans will cave on Obamacare.

They will not stand with Cruz and Lee unless dragged kicking and screaming against their will. I hope they will. I hope a collection of House conservatives will stand strong and force the issue.

But the majority of them will betray Cruz and Lee. In fact, Senate Republican Leaders have built up so much irrational hatred of Cruz, they want him to fail just so they can say they beat him — damn the Obamacare implications. Their pride comes before the nation.

Cruz needs only a few dozen Republicans in the House to stand firm to be successful. He might get that.

But the bulk of the GOP in the House will try to cut a deal with the Democrats and move on. That, in and of itself, is the brilliance of this strategy.

For several years now, the Republican rhetoric against Obamacare has been vicious and savage. As more stories come in about the harmful effects the legislation will have on our economy, we learn that the Affordable Care Act is anything but, and more Americans are losing full-time jobs to it.

Each news story causes Republican rhetoric to amp up and Republican fundraising petitions to start up.

The GOP has made a mint off opposition to Obamacare and, ironically, now attack conservatives as being in this fight for the money.

Takes one to know one, except these groups are not stopping. It is dawning on Republican leaders these groups actually, really believe in this fight.

Like a light switch flipping on, Cruz and Lee are casting light on the scurrying of Republican roaches in and out of the Capitol.

Republican congressmen and senators are now openly attacking Cruz and Lee. Outside groups like Americans for Tax Reform and outside media interests like the Wall Street Journal are amplifying attacks made by the establishment GOP against conservatives. Lobbyists are up in arms.

Lee and Cruz are showing the leadership skills others have claimed for themselves. Conservatives now see just how badly they've been played by their so-called leaders and many outside groups that have hung for too long on the conservative label, while really being affiliates of the Republican Party itself.

Because of Lee and Cruz, polling against Obamacare is up and the GOP’s favorability is up.

Even more importantly, the Republican base’s willingness to get back in the game has gone up, too, in the aftermath of a bitterly depressing 2012 election that saw a good bit of disengagement by the base.

Conservatives may see their leaders now as the pathetic lot they are, but they have also seen real leadership in Cruz and Lee.

They've also found real voices on the outside like Heritage Action for America and the Senate Conservatives Fund, with which they can engage for education and motivation.

Cornyn sent out an email that he would be voting against any amendment to fund Obamacare. But his voters in Texas now understand Cornyn is playing them — voting to ensure Obamacare gets funded while voting against it. The base has learned the game, and the base is sick of the game.

All the shots at Cruz from inside and outside Congress only strengthen his relationship with the grassroots.

But more importantly, and this is the bit the GOP and its media allies simply have not understood — the Cruz strategy would never work in and of itself.

It required stronger, braver souls than the GOP currently has to offer. It does, however, throw such a light on these Republicans that it will make it both easier to challenge them in primaries and, more importantly, make it much, much harder for them to cooperate with the Democrats on Obamacare fixes.

Win or lose, Cruz and Lee have boxed in both the Democrats and the Republicans into positions that will make it more difficult for them to nuance their way out of.

In short, Cruz and Lee have, whether they can muster the support or not in this round, ensured the GOP cannot begin collaborating with the Democrats to fix what the voters want repealed.

And you can be sure that they would be working to fix it, despite all their rhetoric otherwise. You can be sure of that because Cruz’s fight has proven just how empty their rhetoric really is.

Republican base voters have, for quite a while, distrusted their leaders. Now, thanks to Cruz and Lee, they know why and they know who, on the inside, they should be listening to.

Erick Erickson is editor of RedState.com and a Fox News contributor.
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