DeMint and Cruz: Heroes–or a ‘cancer’ on the conservative movement?

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Politico’s story today on how Jim DeMint is “back at war with Republicans” includes this hard-hitting quote: “‘I think Heritage Action is really hurting the foundation,’ said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, the conservative Georgia Republican. ‘I think they’ve lost credibility with the people that were most supportive of them.'”

According to one frustrated source familiar with the GOP’s strategy to roll back Obamacare, this rings true.

“They do no real work [on the Obamacare repeal] — or bad work — and then announce for the world and the DC press what the principled conservative stance is on an issue,” said a well-placed source regarding Heritage Action.

The source was also critical of Sen. Ted Cruz, who “tells everyone he’s in charge of Obamacare in the Senate because he offered a defunding agreement to the last [continuing resolution].”

“[Sen. Cruz] has done precisely zero work on the issue before or after that two-day story,” says the source. “His office has shown no interest in participating in any of the day-to-day hard work and messaging on Obamacare.”

Other sources were less willing to throw elbows. Still, in talking with them, one gets the sense that there is disagreement within the conservative movement regarding strategy. “Obamacare is unpopular, according to polls, but if you ask voters who they trust on health care, they trust Democrats over Republicans by double digits, says Avik Roy, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute who focuses on health care reform. “That’s because we spend a lot of time talking about what we oppose, and too little time talking about what we’re for.”

Americans for Tax Reform, FreedomWorks, and other conservative and tea party groups signed a letter backing House efforts to delay Obamacare’s employer and individual mandates, yesterday. Noticeably absent from the list were groups like Heritage Action and The Club for Growth.

“Yesterday showed that the most active anti-Obamacare free-market and Tea Party groups back smart, aggressive, and timely attacks on Obamacare, and that such efforts do not exclude other fights down the road–in fact, they lay the groundwork for them,” said ATR’s Ryan Ellis.

Still, others, who declined to go on the record, insist the problem is that some of the biggest heroes of grassroots conservatives actually harm the cause they claim to be championing. According to these sources, DeMint , Cruz and others “want to preen and pose and demagogue.”

“By seeming to be the purest of the pure, [they] can rail grassroots guys against the RINO sellout Beltway Potomac Fever squishes,” says one source. This is good for their image with the base, but it comes at a high cost.

“That’s their game. It’s how they grow direct mail lists, email lists, small donor lists,” says the source. “Their critique is rarely true, and when it is (like the Farm Bill), they have cried wolf too many times for anyone serious to take notice.  They are a cancer on the movement, alright — just not for the reasons LaTourrette gave. They have made [Republican] Leadership gun shy about putting anything on the floor.”

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Note: The woman to whom I’m related by marriage previously consulted for Cruz.

Matt K. Lewis