The Conversation

Feisty interviews vs. tepid statement from Lee and Cruz

In response to Cruz: 'Mike Lee and I Are Gonna Fight with Every Breath in Our Body' to Stop Obamacare:

Unfortunately, this pugnacious spirit was not in display in the statement Cruz and Lee, plus Marco Rubio, released after the House launched its defunding resolution.   "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," said the fight-fight-fighting Senators.  "At that point, House Republicans must stand firm, hold their ground, and continue to listen to the American people."

What they said isn't necessarily inaccurate, and some of the House blowback has been a little over the top, but I can't think of a worse way Cruz, Lee, and Rubio could have said it.  They had to be well aware of the House grumbles that all the hard work gets lumped on them, while the tough-talking Senators grow a lot more mellow when it's time for an actual legislative fight. 

Dumping a statement that could easily be characterized as "waving the white flag already," just hours after the House did what Cruz and company have been calling for, was an immense tactical error.  The media gets the sort of "Republican feud" story they love, anonymous aides rush to reporters with bushels of sour grapes, the Democrats are relieved to know they won't have to spend that much political capital to keep ObamaCare alive, and suddenly nobody's really talking about ObamaCare any more.

This isn't generally how the Democrats gear up for a tough fight, even when they're far more divided than Republicans are, as in the case of gun-control pushes.  The sense of pugnacious certainty and moral inevitability they display minimizes their expense of political capital over the long term - given how unpopular gun control is, it's remarkable Democrats haven't paid a steeper price for pushing it.  That's because they don't roll into the fight by making statements that they'll probably lose, or handing the press golden opportunities to highlight internal squabbles within the party.

It all reminds me of the salesman's strategy: Always be closing.  Sometimes it seems like the Republicans never start closing.  They don't act as if voters just need a bit of sweet persuasion to get behind a principled crusade.  They're defensive even when playing offense.  And I don't think they truly appreciate the power of repetition and constant effort.  Obama's broken-record rhetoric about the debt ceiling sounds tedious to those of us in the know... but to many average voters, it sounds consistent.  The one hundredth time he repeats some sound bite might be the first time a particular voter hears it.  This was a good moment for Senate Republicans like Cruz and Lee to rush eagerly into the battle they keep saying they want, not remark that they'll probably lose, and tell their House colleagues to chin up.


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