* Texan becomes the face of opposition to Obamacare
* Alienates colleagues but fires up political base
* May be Republican presidential contender
By Thomas Ferraro and Caren Bohan
WASHINGTON, Sept 25 As Ted Cruz's anti-Obamacare
U.S. Senate talkathon entered its 19th hour early on Wednesday,
Tea Party Patriots leader Jenny Beth Martin said that "by the
time this is over, most people in America are going to know who
Ted Cruz is."
When the 21st and final hour came at noon, the freshman
Republican U.S. senator, his tie askew, his hand on his heart in
a final flourish, had been catapulted into the public
Whether or not he actually seeks his party's presidential
nomination in 2016, as some pundits expect, the former Texas
solicitor general has become a "name," and a potential
"Ted Cruz" was the top search on Google, ahead of "Marvel's
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," a drama that premiered on ABC, National
League Football star quarterback Peyton Manning and NBC'S "The
Ted Cruz was trending on CNN's website, overtaking the
attack by Islamist militants in a Kenyan shopping mall and
singer Miley Cyrus.
A White House official singled him out for criticism,
perhaps the greatest badge of honor for Cruz and followers of
the conservative Tea Party movement.
Democrats as well as Republicans were using him to raise
And the 42-year-old Cruz had become, at least for the
moment, the face of the movement against Obamacare, President
Barack Obama's sweeping 2010 healthcare restructuring law that
extends health coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.
Republicans view the law as a massive government intrusion
into the private sector that will make healthcare costlier and
help bankrupt the government.
Cruz's speech, which had the look of an old-fashioned
filibuster used traditionally by senators to block legislation,
aimed to build support for a Republican bill that would withhold
funds to operate the government unless Obamacare was gutted.
However, few of his Republican colleagues joined his effort.
In fact, a majority of the 46 Republican senators may line
up with their party leaders, who want to pass an emergency
spending bill by Sept. 30 that would avoid a federal government
Cruz said repeatedly during the night that it didn't matter
to him that he was alienating other Senate Republicans, urging
constituents of senators who appeared soft on Obamacare to hound
their member, "by the thousands."
He said he was not concerned that his speech would have no
impact on the outcome of the legislation before the Senate.
A VOICE FOR MILLIONS
What mattered, he said, was that he had "provided a voice"
for millions of Americans against the "ruling class" in
"Firing up the base is what his first step is," said Bruce
Buchanan, a professor of political science at the University of
Texas in Austin.
"He doesn't care about the establishment Republicans," said
Buchanan, noting that conservative activists vote in Republican
primaries in huge numbers.
He's also playing to "a well-heeled group" of Tea Party
financiers who helped get him elected senator of Texas, Buchanan
"Cruz can afford at this stage to alienate some of those
Among potential Republican presidential contenders, he said,
"Cruz is taking up all the oxygen right now."
Even if he isn't a presidential candidate yet, Cruz was
getting the media attention of one.
When he left the Senate chamber at the end of his speech, he
was swarmed by reporters. Cruz reiterated why he disliked
Obamacare and then added that the debate was now "in the hands
of the American people" and that he had "spoken long enough."
Cruz showed overnight that he will be a formidable presence
in primary election debates if he makes a White House bid.
He's got the folksiness of a Texas politician, the
aggressiveness of a Harvard Law School-trained litigator and the
theatrical flair and delivery of a televangelist.
"Will we respond to the suffering Obamacare is causing?," he
chanted without a script. "Will we respond to the millions of
people who are jobless? Will we respond to the people getting
forced into part-time work? Will we respond to the people who
are losing their healthcare or will we continue to say: For me
but not for thee?"
In the space of a few hours, he dissected Supreme Court
opinions, the Old Testament and "Green Eggs and Ham," a
best-selling 1960 children's book by Dr. Seuss in which Cruz saw
a metaphor for Obamacare.
He was also over the edge, in the view of many of his
Republican colleagues in the Senate.
U.S. Senator John McCain took him aside privately after the
speech to disapprove of Cruz's comparison of members who opposed
his effort with those who appeased the Nazis before World War
McCain, whose father fought in that war, said Cruz told him
he wasn't talking about McCain or any other senator, but rather
"pundits" in the media.
McCain said that was "unacceptable" and took to the Senate
floor to criticize Cruz.
Avik Roy, a scholar at the Manhattan Institute think tank
and a former adviser to 2012 Republican presidential candidate
Mitt Romney, said Cruz would have some fence-mending to do with
his Republican colleagues.
"Ted Cruz has angered a lot of conservatives and a lot of
Republicans who have been opposed to Obamacare" but who disagree
with the strategy of risking a government shutdown to try to
defund the healthcare law, Roy said.
But Cruz has what political consultants call "a story." His
father fled to Texas from Cuba in the 1950s, worked as a
dishwasher to put himself through college and started a
Ted Cruz won scholarships by competing in
libertarian-sponsored oratorical contests, became a debater at
Princeton, graduated from Harvard Law School in 1995 and clerked
for a conservative icon, the late U.S. Chief Justice William
He became a successful lawyer, was appointed solicitor
general of Texas in 2003 and ran for the U.S. Senate in 2012,
with the endorsement of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and
the conservative Club for Growth.
Most of Cruz's 99 colleagues didn't bother to enter the
Senate to watch his performance, but many Americans saw it on
the C-Span cable network, and on videos that went viral through
the night and on Wednesday.
"He is standing shoulder to shoulder with the American
people, and other senators will know that they should be as
well," said Martin, the Tea Party Patriots president.
Martin's group helped organize a "defund Obamacare" rally
outside the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 10 that greeted Cruz, who was
in attendance, with chants of "run, run, run."
"I can't imagine the type of reception he will receive at
his next rally. It will be truly amazing," Martin said.
(Editing by Fred Barbash and Paul Simao)