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Klein: If Ted Cruz didn’t exist, Dems would have to invent him

Published: Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

A true cynic about American politics would, at this point, be forced to one conclusion: Sen. Ted Cruz is a Democratic sleeper agent.

It is tough to appreciate just how much good the Texas Republican has done the Democrats over these past few weeks.

He convinced fellow Republicans to shut down the government rather than wait and fight over the debt ceiling, where they would have had more – and more dangerous – leverage.

He splintered the Republican Party such that, from Day 1, it was clear that the GOP leadership opposed the strategy they were executing, and GOP senators were publicly blasting House Republicans. That also cut the GOP’s leverage.

He made this a fight over defunding Obamacare, which polls showed was a wildly unpopular reason to shut down the government, and which united Democrats against him.

He shut the government down Oct. 1, the same day Obamacare began, thus distracting the American people from the law’s catastrophic rollout.

He drove the Republican Party to its lowest levels of popularity ever recorded in polls.

He actually managed to make Obamacare more popular at a time when, by all rights, the law’s extremely troubled launch should’ve been eroding its standing in the polls.

The culmination of this strategy, today, is that Republicans are reopening the government and raising the debt ceiling in return for ... nothing. There are no policy concessions from the Democrats (income verification is already part of Obamacare). There are no procedural concessions from the Democrats. Just the opposite, in fact.

Democrats managed to get the budget conference they’ve been pursuing for six months. They got a resolution to continue funding the government of the length they wanted and ending before the next sequestration cuts, rather than the six-month resolution that Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, proposed. They got a debt-ceiling increase all the way into February. This is far beyond what Democrats thought possible Sept. 30.

But the strategy Cruz managed to force on the GOP was so suicidal that Democrats felt comfortable forcing Republicans to cave completely. They were so confident that they managed to reject a deal proposed by Collins and supported by many Senate Democrats because it funded the government for longer than the Democratic leadership preferred. That’s a level of control over the outcome that Democrats never expected to have.

Over the past 24 hours, I’ve seen some Republicans complaining that President Barack Obama and the Democrats are trying to break them. Their anger is misplaced. They should be angry at Ted Cruz for putting Republicans in a position to be broken.

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