Shut It Down: It’s a Win for Obama and Cruz

Why the president and his Tea Party rival both have something to gain in this government face-off.

President Barack Obama (Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images); Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) (Gage Skidmore/Wikemedia Commons)
President Barack Obama (Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images); Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) (Gage Skidmore/Wikemedia Commons)

(The Root) — With each passing “crisis” in the zero-sum game of congressional politics, we’ve gotten used to sorting out the winners and losers of every battle. But as September’s round of Washington’s annual budget fight tightens up — and a government shutdown looms for Tuesday — what we have, so far, is a win-win: The Tea Party’s Sen. Ted Cruz has the attention he craves, and President Barack Obama stays “covered.”

But what, exactly, do they get out of the deal?

Last week Cruz faux-filibustered a House bill to “defund” Obamacare — a bill that he supported — and then voted against it, anyway. The result was an enhanced reputation on both sides of the aisle for being “an incredibly bright guy who’s an arrogant jerk.”

Even Republican colleagues, like Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, took to the Senate floor to accuse Sen. Cruz of pushing bad policy that boiled down to a me-first media campaign.

But Cruz — who headlined Fox News Sunday last week and Meet the Press this Sunday — is playing the Tea Party lead-dog role for everything it’s worth. And all you need to know about why he’s done what he’s doing can be found in Friday’s new poll from Public Policy Polling, showing that Cruz has boosted his standing among his political base to the point that he’s now GOP primary voters’ “top choice to be their candidate for president in 2016.”

He’s relished the criticism, because as Mediaite’s Noah Rothman points out, as long as Congress is held in low esteem by the public, picking a fight with his colleagues is Cruz’s way of “making all the right enemies” on the way to a future run for the White House.

Obama, on the other hand, needs a reboot.

He’s never quite sold the idea that the Affordable Care Act will help millions of uninsured Americans secure coverage while simultaneously lowering premiums for those who’re already insured and shrink the overall cost of health care as a share of GDP.

Even those supporting Obamacare aren’t quite sure that it will turn out as advertised.