Why a Government Shutdown Is Good for Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz seen as fighting for principles, but is he fighting for himself?

widemodern_cruz_091113.jpg

Against the wishes of many of his colleagues, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has proposed a government shutdown to keep Obamacare from being fully implemented.

By SHARE

It has been called a kamikaze mission, the "dumbest idea" senators have seen on Capitol Hill for quite some time. Yet, there are enough House Republicans who believe it's possible to defund Obamacare through the government's funding bill that House Speaker John Boehner is holding a vote on the scheme Friday.

[READ: Republicans Risk Shutdown on Obamacare]

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., someone who once said Obamacare would "Sovietize the American health care system," even thinks the plan is out of whack. He unearthed a Congressional Research Service report showing Congress couldn't possibly cut off the funding for the health care bill because the money was already appropriated through mandatory spending channels.

So who would choose to be the frontman to such a misleading mission?

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, unleashed the original idea, but Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has become the face of the operation. Thursday, during a press event, Cruz vowed he would stop at nothing, even a filibuster, to keep Obamacare from being fully implemented. Observers say as long as his base keeps writing checks to fund the mercenary mission, Cruz will keep standing on principle even at the risk of dragging the GOP down with him.

"He is asking Republicans to commit political suicide. It is almost like he is their cult leader," says John Feehery, a GOP strategist. "The legislative process does not allow you to hold your breath until you turn blue. This is essentially what Cruz is demanding. The problem is that Cruz might help turn the House blue."

Wednesday, Cruz upset some in the House GOP when he admitted that the proposal to defund the Affordable Care Act would probably falter in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader "Harry Reid will no doubt try to strip the defund language from the continuing resolution, and right now he likely has the votes to do so," Cruz said in a released statement. "At that point, House Republicans must stand firm, hold their ground, and continue to listen to the American people."

Cruz has defended himself by claiming he is pushing the GOP to do what no one has been brave enough to attempt before, but while the political calculations might work in his favor, pollsters say the Republican Party cannot possibly benefit from a government shutdown if the GOP refuses to give any ground.

[ALSO: Why GOP Leadership Prefers the Debt Ceiling Fight]

On its own, GOP pollster Jon McHenry says repealing and dismantling Obamacare is a great issue that attracts the Republican base, a majority of independents and even a fraction of Democratic voters to the GOP ticket.

"Where we lose is where we link Obamacare to the CR," McHenry says, referring to the continuing resolution battle Congress is embroiled in.

Independents won't go for a government shutdown even if it would stop Obamacare in its tracks, he explains.

"It jeopardizes Republicans maintaining control of the House and even gaining control of the Senate, which they are in a position to do in 2014," McHenry says.

Pollsters and pundits, however, admit Cruz has everything to gain from leading the charge. As the face of the movement, he can continue filling his campaign coffers with donations from Conservative Super PACS like Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives, which have poured more than a $1 million into Cruz's campaign machine during his career.

And the fundraising doesn't stop there, Cruz has been able to get donations from constituents in Texas and supporters nationwide off of the issue. Cruz devoted time during the August recess to travel with the Heritage Foundation's political wing to push for the plan to defund Obamacare, raising his own national profile in important presidential election states like Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania where the events were scheduled.

While Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., another possible 2016 GOP contender, has also been supportive of a plan to defund Obamacare through the CR, Cruz is much more visible on the issue. Moderates and independents may not be behind Cruz's crusade, but pollsters say that doesn't matter in a GOP primary.