Molly Ball followed Sen. Ted Cruz down to the annual RedState Gathering (held this year in Fort Worth), and came back with an evocative story about why conservatives adore the guy. She gets at something that's hard to convey, unless you see Cruz talk to conservatives.
Every politician creates his own version of reality, but Cruz's effect is particularly through-the-looking-glass. "Let me tell you what's not getting a lot of coverage in the mainstream media," Cruz told the Fort Worth crowd. "Conservatives are winning!" He pointed to legislation he had stopped—gun control, IMF reform—and public-relations battles, like the time last month when he "put out a long statement raising a series of questions" about the Federal Aviation Administration's ban on flights to Israel; 36 hours later, "the administration lifted the ban." And he pointed to fights still in progress, like the border bill and repealing Obamacare.
Cruz has done a version of this rundown at most of his major speeches. On Saturday, when he spoke to the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa, he boiled the victories down to seven.
Listicle machine, engage:
1: Defeat of the 2013 gun safety bills, which Cruz attributes to the filibuster threat (of the start of even debating the bills) from him and Mike Lee and Rand Paul. "It gave time for the grassroots to engage. It came time for each of you to light up the phones, to ask your senators: Why aren't you standing for the Second Amendment?"
2: The Hobby Lobby case.
3. The unanimous passage of Cruz's bill to bar Iran's selected ambassador from the United States.
4. The liberation of Sudanese Christian Meriam Ibrahim, which social conservatives prayed for. "President Obama somehow couldn't bring himself to stand up and say to the government of Sudan, free Meriam Ibrahim."
5. The lifting of the FAA's ban on flights to Israel. (Cruz accidentally started calling this the fourth victory, but corrected himself with a Rick Perry joke. "I could have said 'oops,' but that would make news.")
6. "Immigration"—previously this has meant the squelching of the comprehensive bill, but during this recess, it means the passage in the House of the border bill and DACA defunding favored by Cruz.
7. Obamacare. To be clear, this was not actually a win. "The final victory that we haven't yet won, but we've laid the groundwork to win, is repealing every single word of Obamacare," said Cruz. In Iowa, as he's done elsewhere, Cruz took credit for the backlash to the law by insisting that the 2013 government shutdown fight "elevated the stakes of the debate."
"And a result," said Cruz, "Republicans, instead of competiing for five, six Senate seats, are competing for 10, 11, 12 Senate seats all around the country."