Where Does The GOP Go From Here?

Renee Montagne talks to Molly Ball of The Atlantic about fractures within the Republican Party and the future of the GOP after the shutdown.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

We are joined now by the Atlantic magazine's Molly Ball, who's been writing about how Ted Cruz is shaking up the Republican Party. Good morning.

MOLLY BALL: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: What stood out for you about Ted Cruz in the piece we just heard?

BALL: Well, I do think a lot of people in Washington get it wrong when they blame Ted Cruz for what has happened with the shutdown and with some of the turmoil inside the party. Ted Cruz is a constituency. Ted Cruz represents a lot of people. And if it weren't for the grassroots enthusiasm that was just talked about, Ted Cruz wouldn't have any power. But he gets his power from that tremendous grassroots enthusiasm that he represents.

MONTAGNE: Well, you've written that Tea Party supporters have declared war on their fellow Republicans. Does the Tea Party faction, as you understand it, have a vision for what a victory would look like?

BALL: Their victory would be taking over the Republican Party from what they view as the establishment that has gone soft. They believe that the Republican Party, as it exists - the party of Mitt Romney, the party of John McCain and many others before - is not sufficiently conservative. They believe that that's why it's not winning national elections, and that the answer is something much more in the Ted Cruz mold: politicians who go to Washington not to be constructive and to compromise, but to burn the place down.

MONTAGNE: Well, you also write that some hard-line conservatives want to split from the GOP to form their own party, and that being a Tea Party faction. How realistic and how likely is that?

BALL: Well, most political scientists will tell you it's not very realistic for a third party to win elections in the United States. But in terms of how it could damage the party, even an unsuccessful third-party movement - even something on the scale of, say, a Ralph Nader in 2000 - could have a profound effect on a presidential election. So, if these self-styled conservatives make good on their threats and actually do secede from the Republican Party, you know, you do have a lot of them really calling the establishment a lot of terrible names and really threatening divorce if they don't get their way. And if there is that kind of a dramatic rupture, I think this will all play out in the 2016 primaries. And if they do end up seceding in some way, it would have a pretty major effect on Republicans' chances for national office.

MONTAGNE: If you had a percentage or if you were betting to actually pull away for a new party, what would you say?

BALL: Well, I don't like to make predictions, but I think it is safe to say that this is not a conflict that is going to go away, especially with someone like Ted Cruz being so vocal in Washington. He's signaled he is not going to back down, and the sort of talk radio cheering on this movement, this conflict that has been sort of a simmering internal matter for the Republican Party up to now is now very much out in the open, very much a sort of hot war, and I think we're going to hear more of it.

MONTAGNE: Well, just in the few seconds we have left, do you see the more establishment Republicans pushing back in the next possible budget fight in January?

BALL: You do hear fewer people listening to Ted Cruz now. And some of the anger at him in Washington, some of his fellow senators and even conservative members of the House felt that his tactics went too far this last fight.

MONTAGNE: Thanks very much for joining us.

BALL: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Molly Ball covers politics for the Atlantic magazine.

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