In a fight between Harry Reid and Ted Cruz, I will stand with Ted Cruz any day.

Today, Senator Cruz has taken the fight to defund ObamaCare to the Senate floor. I hope you will join me in standing with him in solidarity.

As Republicans, we must remain true to our principles and fight to protect the American people from this reckless law…

Join me and stand with Ted today. Sign our pledge and tell Harry Reid to defund ObamaCare immediately!

– Reince Priebus

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Critics question his motives, though — is this about his principles or about presidential aspirations?…

“If you get outside of Washington, D.C., there is a frustration with Washington that is palpable. When you ask your constituents what are the problems you’re facing, over and over again, the answer that comes back is Obamacare is killing jobs, is taking away my health insurance, is driving up my premiums, is causing small businesses to shrink, to go out of business. If we listen to the American people, that should be our priorities,” [Cruz] told CNN this week…

On the other hand, Cruz’ principled stand can help to grow a movement of disenchanted conservative voters. If a groundswell of conservative grassroots activists grows between now and 2016 — and their financial support – Cruz could have carved out a path to the Republican nomination.

“I think what Senator Cruz understands is that he has more to gain from adhering to his principles, staying in touch with the grass roots here and around the country than he does being friends with other senators,” Brendan Steinhauser, a leading Texas tea party activist who worked to get Cruz elected, said.

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Ted Cruz isn’t popular among his Republican colleagues in the Senate or the House. He doesn’t care. Ted Cruz isn’t going to be the Senate majority (or minority) leader. He doesn’t care. Ted Cruz isn’t going to be the GOP’s establishment pick for just about any office. He doesn’t care.

What Cruz does care about is that among the Republican base he is known as a populist outsider who cares about them and not the ways of Washington. That he, alone among his colleagues, is willing to put principle first and do everything he can to oppose Obamacare. That, after months of asking for a piece of legislation that would defund Obamacare, Cruz is walking the walk in his opposition to the law…

Cruz’s speech — he’s been going for roughly two and a half hours as of this writing — has repeatedly driven that point home. Time and again he noted that the Senate chamber is empty aside from him, that no one — in either party — is willing to stand on principle against this law. He riffed on those — in both parties — who have criticized his approach to the issue. He condemned Washington for its obsession with the political game and its blindness toward the concerns of real Americans. He has touted himself as the light-shiner on all of this, a force of transparency exposing the underbelly of Washington.

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“You know, it is fascinating how many politicians in Washington think this isn’t even worth our time. Mr. President, I will point out, as is usually the case, almost always the case, the Senate floor is largely empty. Everyone’s schedules are apparently busy enough that standing up, coming together to stop Obamacare doesn’t make it onto the priority list. We ought to have all 100 Senators on this floor around the clock until we come together and stop Obamacare,” Cruz said…

“You know, sometimes people in the Senate behave as if they have no bosses, as if they’re autonomous rulers … They behave like kings and queens of their own kingdoms. And yet, Mr. President, every one of us has a whole lot of bosses,” Cruz went on, referring to the constituents who elect them…

“Just today, I’ve heard multiple senators complaining [about] too many phone calls from my constituents,” the Texas Senator said. “What a remarkable complaint. What a remarkable complaint.”

“What a broken system. We work for the people. And why are the people unhappy with Washington, why are they disgusted with Washington? Because Washington isn’t listening to them,” he went on.

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The moment marked the climax of a spreading rift between Cruz, the combative champion of grassroots conservatives, and most of the rest of the Republican Party. Around Washington, consultants warned that Cruz’s antics tarnished the GOP brand. Inside the Capitol, colleagues grumbled that his showboating boxed in House Republicans by delaying Senate Democrats’ inevitable victory. “I know how this movie ends,” groused Senator John McCain. “I know all the scenes.”…

Irking the rest of the Senate is not the collateral damage of his strategy; it is the whole plan. ”All those comments only empower him,” Republican strategist Dave Carney told me last summer as I reported a magazine profile of Cruz. “The mark of a scarlet letter today is being part of that club.”

In other words, Cruz sees most Senate peers not as potential friends, but as useful foils. Nor was his plan to outmaneuver Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who deftly slalomed around Cruz’s procedural efforts to delay a vote that will proceed as scheduled on Wednesday. “Most Americans couldn’t give a flying flick about a bunch of politicians in Washington,” Cruz said. But the “surrender caucus,” as he once called them, is Cruz’s biggest asset. As long as he can portray them as spineless, he gets to stand tall.

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“His fellow senators don’t know where he is coming from,” Rove said. “Sunday morning sitting in the green room waiting for ‘Fox News Sunday’ to begin, I get a call from a senator whom I don’t know too well who said to me ‘Do you know what he is going to say? Because I don’t. I’m a senator and I have no idea what his end game is. I’m going to be watching this in order to figure out what he thinks we should do next.’”

According to Rove, Cruz hasn’t participated in the Thursday morning meetings held by Senate Republicans to lay out his plans for the week, thus not convincing many of his colleagues to support his tactics.

“He should not be surprised — we should not be surprised if their response is ‘We are not going to be dictated to by somebody who doesn’t bother to tell us what he is going to do until after he has made up his mind,’” Rove said.

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Like a light switch flipping on, Ted Cruz and Mike 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…

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, Ted Cruz and Mike 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 Ted 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 Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, they know why and they know who, on the inside, they should be listening too.

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Cruz makes mistakes; everybody does. But he thinks before he acts, and his critics should appreciate that he has a plan.

The plan is obvious enough: to emerge as the next acknowledged political leader of American conservatism in the apostolic succession that begins with Robert Taft, continued through Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp, and has had no agreed successor since Newt Gingrich’s retirement from Congress in 1998. Since then, radio and TV talking heads have displaced politicians as the standard bearers of the conservative cause. But a political movement inescapably requires political leadership—and that position has been vacant too long. The electric response among conservatives to Rand Paul’s drone filibuster—despite the many ways in which Rand Paul’s libertarian politics slant against the grain of conservatives in the country—shows the avid hunger among conservatives to see that vacancy filled

Obviously, Ted Cruz is going to lose his confrontation over Obamacare. In losing, however, he will taint his possible rivals—including Rand Paul—as pitiful members of the “surrender caucus.” Only he will stand brave and true, like Mel Gibson playing Braveheart. The Wall Street Journal calls his campaign “kamikaze.” But the art of political leadership includes a shrewd understanding of how to engineer the right political defeat, for the right audience.

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In 2012, President Obama said the “most important lesson” of his first term was that “you can’t change Washington from the inside.” What is required is populist pressure from the outside. This was an odd claim on two counts. First, it’s not true. His signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act, was an entirely inside affair, an ugly partisan one involving mercenary horse-trading and countless backroom deals with industry and unions. Second, Obama, the community organizer, always believed salvation lay in organizing a movement. It was the premise at the heart of his 2008 campaign in which he told adoring throngs, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”…

If Cruz’s effort fails — and I fear it will — it will be for the same reasons that Obama’s second term has been such a legislative dud. The way you bring change to Washington is through elections. After the elections, change comes from the unsightly sausage-making processes of politics. Both Cruz and Obama have palpable disdain for the consensus-building and glad-handing that these processes require.

Of course, there are huge differences between Obama and Cruz — the most important is that they have completely divergent philosophies. That may matter most, but it isn’t everything. The inside game matters too. Cruz likes pointing out Obama’s failures; he should also learn from them.

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“Obamacare isn’t working,” he continued. “And yet, fundamentally, there are politicians in this body who are not listening to the people.”

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Via Politico.