Why don't Republican leaders like Ted Cruz and Mike Lee?

The hostility of Democrats to Ted Cruz and Mike Lee is ideological; the hostility of their own party is merely political. Photo: Mitch McConnell / AP

WASHINGTON, November 26, 2013 — Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are not popular with Senate Republican leaders. Neither are the groups that strongly support them — the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Tea Party.

But why? It certainly makes sense that Democrats oppose them, but why do they face strong opposition from some Republicans?

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The Tea Party Patriots website explains what that group is about. According to the “About” page, they were formed as a reaction to the “fiscally irresponsible actions of the federal government, misguided ‘stimulus’ spending, bailouts, and takeovers of private industry.”

Their core principles are:

Fiscal Responsibility – not overspending, and not burdening our children and grandchildren with our bills.

Constitutionally Limited Government – the power resides with the people not the government. Governing should be done at the most local level possible. Governmental power should be limited, enumerated, and constrained by the Constitution.

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Free Market Economics – elimination of governmental intervention will lead to a more vibrant economy.

In the second paragraph of their “About” page, the word “grassroots” is used five times. They emphasize that they are community based and do not support any political party, nor do they endorse candidates.

The Senate Conservatives Fund, started by ex-Senator Jim DeMint, espouses similar positions. It endorses candidates who will:

Stop spending – and support a constitutional amendment to balance the budget without raising taxes.

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Repeal ObamaCare.

Enforce immigration – and oppose amnesty.

Defend the 2nd amendment.

Ban bailouts.

End earmarks – and support a permanent ban on them.

Protect life – and oppose any taxpayer funding for abortion.

The Senate Conservatives Fund has endorsed a candidate who is running against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. This helps explain why the Senate GOP leadership takes a dim view of the Fund — and of any senators associated with it. 

McConnell is reported to have mentioned the Fund by name in a phone call to supporters. During an October 30 phone call with 20-30 supporters, McConnell had harsh wods for conservative groups working to defund Obamacare. Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle reports that McConnell said “the Tea Party movement, in his view, is ‘nothing but a bunch of bullies’ that he plans to ‘punch … in the nose.’”  

McConnell, Boyle reports, named “Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) as Tea Party conservatives he views as problematic for him.”

Ted Cruz’s site has a similar tone to the Tea Party and Conservative Fund websites. On his “About Ted” page we read that Cruz is “A passionate fighter for limited government, economic growth, and the Constitution.” His popularity with these groups is easy to understand; his embrace of conservative principles is easy to see.

In contrast to Cruz’s website, Mike Lee’s site contains the phrase “defending the basic liberties of Americans and Utahns as a tireless advocate for our founding constitutional principles” as the first sentence of his “About Mike” section; on Cruz’s site it doesn’t show up until the second sentence. Two additional paragraphs on this page discuss his respect for and pride in the Constitution. He makes it clear that he is a supporter of conservative principles as well.

Mitch McConnell’s “About” page says nothing about core principles. There is no mention of the Constitution anywhere on his site. It does list his various electoral “firsts,” and the list is substantial.

Senators Lee and Cruz put their core principles front and center on their web sites; Senator McConnell puts his electoral triumphs front and center on his. It’s no surprise that they don’t always see eye-to-eye.

While tea party candidates show a lot of enthusiasm for reform, in some cases they lack the political savvy to win elections. Perhaps the Republican Party can show more interest in serious tea party candidates and give them the tools to achieve victory, instead of marginalizing them in terms of funding and messaging?

Just a thought.

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