Proponents of the Republican government-shutdown scheme generally express nothing but optimism -- their support is growing, they say, and the effort continues apace.
There is, however, ample reason to believe the GOP is moving further away from actually executing the shutdown plan.
Late last week, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the #4 member of the House Republican leadership, dismissed the scheme, saying it's "probably not realistic." Around the same time, Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) stressed his hatred for the Affordable Care Act, but nevertheless added that his party should invest its energies elsewhere.
Yesterday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), one of the key ringleaders of the shutdown scheme, conceded, "We do not have the votes right now."
So, it's over, right? Not quite yet.
"We do not have the votes right now," Cruz said, noting that to succeed, he'd need 41 senators or 218 representatives to get behind his legislation.... But the Texas Republican, speaking with CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley on "State of the Union," argued a coming "grass-roots tsunami" would bring over fellow conservatives to his side in the next month.
"I'm convinced there's a new paradigm in politics, that actually has Washington very uncomfortable. And it has politicians in both parties very uncomfortable," he said. "And that new paradigm is the rise of the grass roots, the ability of grass-roots activists to demand of their elected officials they do the right thing."
Why taking health care benefits away from millions of Americans would be "the right thing" to do is unclear, but these comments nevertheless tell us quite a bit about the state of play. Indeed, Cruz seems to realize his gambit is failing, but nevertheless has a plan to succeed -- the shutdown plan will get back on track because of a "grass-roots tsunami" that's right around the corner.
But that's not going to happen -- the American mainstream doesn't want a government shutdown. Most Republican votersdon't want one, either. Cruz's army of pro-shutdown activists -- integral to his larger initiative -- is made up of fringe extremists who've failed miserably to persuade anyone outside their narrow ideological sphere.
What's more, this isn't Cruz's only venture from reality.
Consider this gem:
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Sunday that he is "not convinced" that President Barack Obama wouldn't defund his own signature health care law if Congress gave him the opportunity to do so.
"I am not at all convinced of that," Cruz told Candy Crowley in an interview on CNN's "State of the Union."
Oddly enough, the Heritage Foundation's Jim DeMint said something very similar on NPR last week. Asked what the point of the exercise is if President Obama won't gut his own health care law, the former senator replied, "Well, we don't know that, do we?"
Just so we're clear, the leading national proponents of a government shutdown over health care policy are working from an amazing assumption: it's possible, they say, that Obama will voluntarily choose to sabotage Obamacare. Cruz and DeMint aren't just repeating this nonsense out loud, and don't just want Americans to believe it, the assertion is actually part of their floundering legislative strategy.
This should be about the point at which their far-right allies reconsider the wisdom of their plan.