The young barn burner is convinced that “official Washington”—his umbrella term covering the old guard of both parties—is hopelessly out of touch with the voters, so he wears the scorn like a crown of laurel. If the Establishment says he’s finished, he concludes, he must be making headway. If they’re so sure he’s wrong, he must be doing something right.
“Changing Washington isn’t easy, and we shouldn’t be surprised when official Washington fights back,” he told Time in an end-of-year interview. “People who were used to making decisions in smoky rooms behind closed doors don’t know how to operate in today’s world, where people have direct access to information, can form their own opinions and know how to make their views heard.”
Since the shutdown, his story has taken yet another twist. At the moment when Cruz was thought to be in the greatest peril, the unlikely figure of President Obama further bolstered his confidence in eventual success. The insurance exchanges that are key to Obama’s health care reforms were launched—with great fanfare—via lead balloon. Two months of fiasco and snafu thoroughly scuffed up the Obamacare brand and shifted the spotlight away from Cruz’s brinkmanship. He now says that his seeming defeat was actually a victory. “We did not ultimately succeed in defunding Obamacare,” he allowed. “But the fight succeeded in elevating attention to the problems.”