The Republican Party is in free-fall, thanks in large part to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Just over a week after Cruz successfully pushed House Republicans to shut down the government in a effort to defund the Affordable Care Act, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found just 24 percent of the country has a favorable view of the GOP and even less think well of the Tea Party. A larger portion of Americans blame Republicans for the shutdown than the portion that blamed Gingrich’s Republicans for shutting down the government in 1995–96. If a House election were held today, Democrats would win the popular vote by a 47 to 39 margin — all but ensuring that Nancy Pelosi would regain the speaker’s gavel.
And yet, if you listened to Ted Cruz’s speech Friday morning at the Values Voters Summit, you would think that he was a conquering general rallying his troops after a great victory — at least, that is, when he wasn’t being heckled for his opposition to comprehensive immigration reform. When the fight to shut down the government over Obamacare began, Cruz told the mostly adoring crowd, “it was abundantly clear this was not a strategy that Washington was going to embrace.” But Cruz and his ally Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) “went over their heads to the American people,” and now those same Washington eminences “fear” those ordinary Americans. It’s as if President Obama was routed the minute Cruz’s shutdown began, and none of what the American people are actually saying about Cruz’s strategy matters.
Buoyed by this vision of himself as conservatism’s Great Hero, Cruz was in a boisterous and jokey mood. Here are eight of the craziest quips from his speech:
1. On Obama’s plot to kidnap him: “So this afternoon President Obama has invited the Senate Republicans to the White House. So after leaving here, I’m going to be going to the White House. I will make a request. if I’m never seen again, please send a search and rescue team. I very much hope by tomorrow morning I don’t wake up amidst the Syrian rebels.”
2. On the press: “The media wants America to give up and allow this country to keep sliding off the edge of the cliff.”
3. On the Constitution: “This is an administration that seems bound and determine to violate every single one of our bill of rights. I don’t know that they have yet violated the Third Amendment, but I expect them to start quartering soldiers in peoples’ homes soon.”
4. On the hecklers who interrupted his speech: “Is anybody left at OFA headquarters? I’m actually glad that the president’s whole political staff is here instead of actually doing mischief in the country
5. On hecklers, again: “It would seem that President Obama’s paid political operatives are out in force. The men and women in this room scare the living daylights out of them.”
6. On hecklers, a third time: “How scared is the President? What a statement of fear, what a statement of fear. Oh, they don’t want the truth to be heard. They definitely don’t want the truth to be heard.”
7. On the Cold War: “Our foreign policy is detente, which I’m pretty sure is French for surrender.”
8. On Vice President Biden: “You don’t need a punchline. You just say his name, people laugh.”
Tony Perkins, who leads the organization behind the Value Voters Summit, called Cruz “a de facto leader of the Republican Party” who was “filling a vacuum” at the top of the party. According to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Thursday night, 44 percent of Americans don’t know who Ted Cruz. Among Americans that do, twice as many have unfavorable impressions of the Senator as have favorable ones.