WASHINGTON -- Sen. Ted Cruz is smack in the middle of the No. 1 political story in the country, has energized his partys conservative base and has become the most visible 2016 Republican presidential wannabe in an early and crowded field.
Politicians live for these kinds of moments.
A senator for not yet even a year, the Texas Republican is at the epicenter of the faceoff between his party and the Democrats that may well lead to a government shutdown Oct. 1.
Elected in November in his first bid for office, he started an unlikely crusade this summer to force House of Representatives Republicans to defund the Affordable Care Act Obamacare which they did last week.
Now Cruz is the Senate point man in a long-shot but symbolic effort for tea party conservatives to champion a House bill that pairs a temporary funding of the federal government past Oct. 1 with a defunding of Obamacare, their political bete noire.
Hes not trying to win, said Bill Miller, an Austin, Texas-based political consultant with both Republican and Democratic clients, commenting on Cruzs Obamacare fight. Hes trying to make a statement. Hes doing this for the attention.
Cruz spoke all night and early this morning about the dangers of Obamacare as well as several other things that he tied to it, such as the repressive regime of Cuba. Cruz, whose father is from Cuba, talked about socialized medicine and the way people flee the communist island. He got some relief from talking continuously when supportive senators, including Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rand Paul, R-Ky, and Pat Roberts, R-Kansas.
Asked be Roberts how he was doing after 17 hours standing, Cruz said, "I'm doing fabulous."
But his own partys Senate leadership is not on board with his strategy. More mainstream Republican conservatives have basically labeled it a fools errand because it has virtually no chance of success and could very well lead to more bad press and public disfavor for the GOP, especially if a compromise to fund the government proves elusive.
Indeed, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace said that top Republicans had sent him opposition research to hammer Cruz during their televised interview.
On Tuesday afternoon, Cruz took to the Senate floor in what he said was a filibuster that would last all night, talking against the Affordable Care Act with likeminded GOP conservative Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
I intend to speak until I am no longer able to stand, he said as he began just before 2:41 p.m. EDT.
He appeared to be beginning a talkathon to prevent a vote, a time-honored piece of Capitol Hill theater. But in reality Senate procedures were already in place for a preliminary vote Wednesday morning.
Repeatedly, Cruz said that people were complaining about Obamacare but that no one in D.C. is listening. At one point, he said to a largely empty Senate chamber, save for a smattering of tourists in the visitors gallery, Most Americans could not give a flying flick about what goes on in Washington.
Cruzs legislatives tactics have a Rube Goldberg-esque quality. His ploy is to get Senate Republicans to vote against the House bill on Wednesday the one that funds government and defunds Obamacare on a procedural motion and then band together to oppose a likely Democratic amendment to strip the Obamacare measure from the bill, which would just leave a bill to temporarily fund the government.