As much as the tea party enthusiasts loved Ted Cruz for leading the effort to de-fund Obamacare in October much of the rest of the party, including many of his Republican colleagues in the Senate were angry at his strategy which lead to the closing of the government and a large drop in party favorability. Some even said that Cruz was the most hated man in the Senate. According to a report in Politico, since October Cruz has been working on his relationship with the rest of the GOP Senators.
After battling with Senate Republicans for much of 2013, prompting tense confrontations and occasional shouting matches, Cruz is starting to achieve what once seemed unthinkable: He’s getting along reasonably well with most of his GOP colleagues.
Since playing a lead role in the government shutdown last fall, Cruz has joined with Republicans on fights ranging from the Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of conservative groups to the Obamacare contraception mandate. Cruz dined with McCain at the posh Capital Grille steakhouse. He cracked jokes with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) at last week’s State of the Union.
In an olive branch to his colleagues, Cruz privately assured them he wouldn’t raise money for a conservative group attacking GOP senators. And he even allowed the Senate to leave early for its Martin Luther King Jr. Day recess by dropping demands for what would have been a futile attempt to gut Obamacare.
It’s a sharp departure from his high-profile battles with his party last year over whether to confirm Chuck Hagel to lead the Pentagon, launch House-Senate budget negotiations and fund the government if Obamacare moved forward. And it’s a sign that Cruz — who has cast himself as an outsider battling the party establishment — is starting to develop an inside game in the clubby Senate, where relationships are important.
While the 43-year-old Cruz is unapologetic about his role in the shutdown, a number of senators privately believe he was humbled by the backlash over his strategy, which didn’t stop Obamacare — as he vowed — but resulted in poor poll numbers for the GOP and made him a pariah in the party establishment. The question is whether this approach will last and help rebuild ties with key players and donors as he eyes a possible 2016 run for the GOP presidential nomination.
“I like Ted,” Graham gushed last week. “And I think the confrontational style has been mitigated a bit. That’s not saying he’s abandoned what he believes, but I think he’s adjusted, and people who are smart enough to adjust will do very well.”
Cruz still takes periodic shots at his Republican colleagues for caving to Democrats, and he’s trying to derail an emerging House GOP immigration effort. But his latest approach appears far more measured than his bombastic style during his opening months as a senator.
“I think he’s working hard to do what most of us do, which is to recognize that we’re in a body that’s based heavily upon relationships, and you get more done when you have good relationships,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). “He comes to the Republican meetings, he’s good-humored, and from my point of view, a pleasure to have in the caucus.”
While some will read this and say Cruz is being a sellout, nothing can be further from the truth. The Senate was created as a deliberative coalition-building institution. “Outsiders” and “hated Senators” are not very successful in the upper body. Cruz is a bright man he realizes that he got off on the wrong foot in the Senate and quite honestly needs to change his ways. This isn’t to mean that he needs to change his stances on policy, he just needs to play nicer in the sandbox. In the end Ted Cruz will come out of it as a much stronger Senator, and a better warrior for conservative principles.