Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah (left), and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, walk to the Senate floor on Oct. 16 to vote on a bill to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah (left), and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, walk to the Senate floor on Oct. 16 to vote on a bill to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government. Evan Vucci/AP
Two Tea Party-backed, defund-Obamacare-or-we'll-shut-down-the-government Senate leaders. Two very different outcomes.
Ted Cruz, who became the public face of the shutdown strategy with his 21-hour talkfest on the Senate floor, has gone back to Texas a conquering hero. He even got an eight-minute standing ovation at a San Antonio event over the weekend, and his not-quite-acknowledged 2016 presidential bid has only gathered momentum.
But Mike Lee, who actually circulated the letter demanding that the president's health care law be left out of any new government spending bill? Well, he's decided to avoid a lot of public events back in Utah for the time being.
It turns out there are many Republicans in Utah who think the shutdown was a bad idea, in part because the resulting closure of national parks cost the state's tourism industry money. Others are uncomfortable with the sharp and uncompromising ideological edge. The ill feelings could add steam to efforts to change the nominating process there to eliminate the party convention that currently has so much sway. It was the convention in 2010 where Lee and another challenger ousted incumbent Republican Robert Bennett. Lee then went on to win the subsequent primary.
If that convention is eliminated in favor of a stand-alone primary, it would diminish the influence of a small group of the most conservative activists and empower the broader, and more mainstream, conservative GOP electorate.
There's one bit of good news in this for Lee: His re-election cycle is still three years off.
And Cruz? He will be headlining the Iowa Republican Party's Reagan dinner Friday night.