Watch live video: Sen. Cruz argues against Obamacare on Senate floor.
And those descriptions were from Cruz’s fellow Senate Republicans. On Monday, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Minority Whip John Cornyn (Tex.) joined the list of longtime GOP senators objecting to Cruz’s strategy, which is intended to shut down the government until and unless Democrats agree to abolish funding for Obama’s health-care law.
This has left Cruz in a relatively familiar place, almost alone in advocating a tough strategy that is winning him the adoration of conservative activists but isolation and quiet disdain among his colleagues on Capitol Hill. Cruz, 42, is a sought-after speaker on the fundraising circuit in early voting states for the 2016 presidential primaries.
Cruz said he owes nothing to party leaders such as McConnell.
“Every day in the Senate, I try to remember to whom I am accountable, and it is not elected officials in Washington,” he told The Washington Post in an interview last month. “It is not, with all respect, to the mainstream media. The people to whom I believe I am accountable are the men and women in Texas.”
His burgeoning fame among the grass roots of his party has not translated into anything resembling success inside the tradition-bound and clubby Senate, where even in today’s highly partisan atmosphere lawmakers usually begin their rejoinders by referring to a political enemy as the “distinguished gentleman.”
For all his success as an agitator of outside forces, Cruz has not set about trying to court Senate allies he will need to advance his agenda. During almost every roll call, he can be found in the far right corner of the chamber, with just his close friend and ideological compatriot Mike Lee (R-Utah).
He does not work the room the way most senators do, including Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), two potential 2016 rivals who appear happy to chat up the chamber’s elder statesmen.
GOP leaders didn’t want to have a standoff with the Texan, given his popularity among the base and his engaging personal history.
Cruz gives the GOP another prominent Hispanic voice, along with Rubio, to make an appeal to Latino voters who have been largely estranged from the party. His 2012 victory — first overcoming the Texas establishment’s choice in the GOP primary, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and then cruising to a general-election win — coincided with plummeting Latino support for the national Republican ticket.