Ted Cruz wishes some of his Senate Republican colleagues had put up more of a fight to defund or delay Obamacare over the past few weeks.

“Instead, unfortunately, the Senate Republicans were divided and became basically an air force dive-bombing the House Republicans and conservatives,” Cruz said on Fox News on Wednesday night as the House was set to approve the Senate deal that would end the shutdown. “Once that happened, there was no way to hold the line with the American people and actually achieve meaningful relief from all the harms coming from Obamacare.”

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Costa: When did you know this standoff was finally ending?

McConnell: I can tell you when I knew that we’d end up here — July. We had extensive discussions in July about how the defund strategy couldn’t possibly succeed. And it’s really a matter of simple math: 54 is more than 46. And, of course, when you add in the president, you knew it had no chance of success. So I knew we’d end up in the place where we ended up. What I could not have predicted is that we’d end up in that place and have so few cards to play. To use a football analogy, by the time it was clear the House couldn’t pass anything, I was on the two-yard line, trying to see how I could punt to get us into a better field position to live to fight another day without raising taxes or busting the [Budget Control Act] caps…

Costa: One last thing: What’s your take on Senator Ted Cruz, who led the “quixotic venture”?

McConnell: I don’t have any observations to make on that.

***

Tired of feeling taken for granted by a party that alternately panders to them and sells them down the river, in their view, Tea Partiers and others on the right are in revolt. The Republican Party itself is increasingly the focus of their anger, particularly after Wednesday’s deal to reopen the government, which many on the right opposed. Now, many are threatening to take their business elsewhere.

“Conservatives are either going to split [from the GOP] or stay home,” Erickson, the influential editor of RedState.com and a Fox News contributor, told me. “They’ll first expend energy in primaries, but if unsuccessful, they’ll bolt.”…

In the Tea Partiers’ view, the clueless establishment hasn’t yet internalized the seriousness of the threat to its supremacy. The grassroots has taken control, and it will have its way or secede. “This is where the wind is blowing,” Deace said. “I don’t think you can put Humpty Dumpty back together again. People like me are not just taking marching orders anymore—they actually want something in return for a vote.”

It will not be possible, Deace predicted, for the two factions to coexist. “This is going to end in divorce,” he said. “One side is going to win control, one side is going to lose, and the losing side will go do something else. There will not be a reunification.”

***

Democrats now say they’ve successfully put Republican majority at stake in 2014, as the GOP’s numbers are in the cellar.

“Is there short-term damage? Yes,” Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) said. “Is there long-term damage? We’ll see.”

Asked who won in these two weeks, Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) said “the people that managed to raise a lot of money off this.”

Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) said that there are many Republicans who “are less likely to go along with the fringe elements of our caucus.” Dent, who publicly pushed Republicans to end this battle last week, said he hopes: “Everybody has learned a lesson.”

***

If you’re a Republican lawmaker fending off a Tea Party challenge and you voted to end the government shutdown Wednesday night, you’re not having a good day.

Conservatives looking to score early points against incumbent Republicans in races across the country pounced almost immediately after the votes were cast. In some cases, even the lawmaker who toed the Tea Party line and voted against the bill have been criticized for being squishes in conservative clothing. The swiftness and intensity of the onslaught underscore just how closely incumbents are being watched by their party’s right wing as it the conservative movement strives for ever more ideological purity…

“We’ll stand with Ted Cruz, we’ll stand with Rand Paul, we’ll stand with Mike Lee. You’ll have a fourth up there fighting the battle,” Bright said. “I’m ready to go to war.”

***

I can hear many conservative friends saying to me right around this point: “Jim, we agree with you that ObamaCare is going to wreck the country, but elections have consequences.” I have three responses.

The first is that ObamaCare was not the central fight in 2012, much to the disappointment of conservatives. Republicans hoped that negative economic news would sweep them to victory, and exit polls confirmed that the economy, not health care, was the top issue. The best thing is to declare last year’s election a mistrial on ObamaCare.

Second, the lives of most Americans are not dominated by the electoral cycle. They shouldn’t have to wait three more years for Congress to give them relief from this law, especially when the president has so frequently given waivers to his friends. Full legislative repeal may not be possible while President Obama remains in office, but delaying implementation by withholding funds from a law that is proven to be unfair, unworkable and unaffordable is a reasonable and necessary fight.

There’s a third reason not to stop fighting. Forget the consultants, the pundits and the pollsters; good policy is good politics. If the Republicans had not fought on ObamaCare, the compromise would have been over the budget sequester. Instead, they have retained the sequester and for the past three months ObamaCare and its failings have been front and center in the national debate. Its disastrous launch was spotlighted by our defund struggle, not overshadowed, as some contend. With a revived and engaged electorate, ObamaCare will now be the issue for the next few years.

***

Given this institutional setting, the reason we ended up in such a mess over the last few weeks is not because the tea party is extreme. And it’s not because of anything Speaker John Boehner did or did not do. None of this would have happened if more moderate Republicans had not caved to extreme pressures within their party and instead had exercised their procedural rights to force a more centrist outcome in the House.

Although there was much hand-wringing about the direction of the Republican Party after the 2012 election, in this era of polarization, many would argue “moderate House Republican” is an oxymoron. But in fact there are moderates in two respects. First, there are House Republicans who are “ideologically” moderate in the sense that they represent relatively moderate districts. There are 28 members representing districts where Obama received more than 48 percent of the vote in 2012, 18 where Obama received more than 49 percent, and 13 where Obama received more than 50 percent of the vote. All of these members are badly out of line with their district sentiment if they pursue anything but a moderate agenda, and one would think they risk losing their seat to a Democrat if they move too far to the right. Second, there are “process” moderates. These are Republicans of various ideological persuasions who understand that American institutions are designed to require compromise between three branches of government. In early October, 22 such House Republicans committed publicly to supporting a “clean resolution” – that is, to allowing an up-or-down vote on whether to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling. Of these, eight were in rather safe Republican seats (where Obama received less than 46 percent of the vote) and one other was in a district where the president received less than 48 percent of the vote. So no matter how one counts, there were plenty of Republicans with which the Democrats should have been able to work. But these Republicans never bucked Speaker Boehner or the majority caucus. Instead, they let the House wreak havoc, and they are the ones who truly deserve the blame, because they could have marshaled the votes for a sensible solution but did not.

***

Whatever rational, impressive candidate lays claim to the GOP nomination in 2016 — say, the popular, newly trimmed-down but currently-all-too-moderate New Jersey governor, Chris Christie — is now going to have to out-Cruz Ted Cruz. And that’s just not possible

GOP strategists will say they’re changing the rules, cutting the number of primary debates so the next Republican nominee is not subjected to the same “traveling circus” (as national chairman Reince Priebus called it) that Romney was. But that’s not going to change the tenor of those debates, in which the candidates will have to outflank each other on the right. They also say, well, you’ll see, the tea party movement is fading, or at least becoming more manageable. But it’s not, as we saw when 144 Republicans in the House voted against the reopening of the government and extension of the debt ceiling Wednesday night, costing John Boehner the support of most of what used to be known as “his” caucus. More to the point, several of those who might be considered serious GOP 2016 contenders for the presidency also voted in favor of the first default in American history in order to stay in the tea party’s good graces, including Paul Ryan, Cruz, Rubio and Rand Paul (supplying the first fodder for those Hillary 2016 attack ads).

***

The consensus (more or less) among political analysts was that the GOP was likely to lose in the shutdown showdown, but was unlikely to suffer serious electoral consequences. The first prediction appears to be the case (but see Peter Beinart’s smart contrarian take). How about the second one?

It is early, but what evidence we have seems consistent with the idea that the GOP didn’t take on much electoral water from this loss. This isn’t to say that there isn’t any evidence that the shutdown hurt Republicans, but the idea that their prospects were seriously jeopardized is thin

This isn’t to say that everything is great for Republicans. In particular, I credit Stu Rothenberg’s observations that the divides in the party could trigger recriminations in primaries, hurting the GOP’s chances. The Republican base may become demoralized, preventing the traditional GOP edge in off-year elections from materializing. And we might see Democrats’ fortunes grow now that the shutdown has been resolved in their favor (we probably will, in fact, at least in the short term).

But for now, there’s really not much evidence that Republicans took it on the chin, at least electorally speaking.

***

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who helped broker that deal, made it clear today that he would not entertain a second government shutdown.

“One of my favorite old Kentucky sayings is there’s no education in the second kick of a mule. The first kick of a mule was when we shut the government down in the mid 1990s and the second kick was over the last 16 days,” McConnell told The Hill. “There is no education in the second kick of a mule. There will not be a government shutdown.”

“I think we have fully now acquainted our new members with what a losing strategy that is,” he added.

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Via the Daily Rushbo.