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His poll numbers sinking, Cruz ramps up rhetoric

Republican Senator Ted Cruz showed no signs of backing down from his hard-line stances Friday despite new NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling numbers showing his party receiving broad public blame for the ongoing government shutdown and high negative ratings for him personally.

The Texas senator endured numerous hecklers and interruptions during a speech to social conservatives, speaking over immigration reform activists and delivering a hard-charging speech against President Barack Obama.

Cruz refused to soften his harsh criticisms of Obamacare and the president, suggesting that no less than the very fate of the United States is on the line in the next few years.

"We have a couple of years to turn this country around or else we go off the cliff to oblivion," he told conservative activists at Friday's Values Voters Summit in Washington.

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But Cruz was repeatedly interrupted by activists who heckled him, asking why the Texas Republican would not support immigration reform that included a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the U.S. without documentation. At each turn, Cruz suggested that the hecklers were planted at the orders of Obama. 

Cruz played up the notion that the White House feared his influence, especially as he plans to join fellow Senate Republicans for a meeting with Obama on Friday at the White House. 

"After leaving here, I'm going to be going to the White House. I will make a request -- if I'm never seen again, please send a search and rescue team," Cruz said, joking that he might mysteriously wake up in Syria. 

Cruz has been a focal point in the current fiscal standoff after leading the charge among Republicans to shut down the government and challenge the nation’s debt limit unless Democrats agree to defund all or parts of the health care law that began implementation on October 1st.

The leader of a 21-hour filibuster against Obamacare that helped contribute to the ongoing government shutdown, Cruz suggested that Democrats "are feeling the heat" right now, though he note that "none of us knows what's going to happen in this Obamacare fight right now."

Still, many of the first-term senator's claims are contradicted by findings in the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Cruz's own negative ratings (28 percent of Americans view him negatively) exceed his positive ratings (14 percent). Cruz even suffers from upside-down impressions among non-Tea Party Republicans. 

And 50 percent of Americans oppose eliminating funding for Obamacare, and another 13 percent of those who wish to strike funding for the Affordable Care Act expressly doubt Cruz's strategy of conditioning funding the government on gutting the ACA.