To say the Republican party is split into little factions, all scrapping and squabbling for attention and praise, would be an understatement. But apparently an ugly personal rivalry exists between two tea party stars, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, that plays out mostly behind closed doors.
The concept of a "frenemy" is fairly common at this point, but let's have a quick review: a frenemy is someone you keep close, like a friend, but secretly hate and want to destroy, like an enemy. And that's probably the best way to describe the Cruz-Paul relationship, as documented by The New York Times' Jonathan Martin: two Tea Party stars vying for the same spot in the White House, willing to elbow the other in the side to get ahead.
Where the relationship really started to fissure is unclear. The two used to be friends, often mentioned in the same breath by fellow Republicans. But that front has fallen apart recently as the road to the White House in 2016 starts to heat up. Perhaps Cruz will be blamed for throwing their relationship completely under the bus, because he told a room full of potential donors in New York City this summer that Rand Paul could never be President "because he can never fully detach himself from the strident libertarianism of his father, former Representative Ron Paul of Texas," Martin reports. The news of Cruz's betrayal made it back to Paul, who was predictably furious. But let's not act like Paul is completely innocent in this charade, either. Privately, Paul calls Cruz "the chief of the wacko birds," playing off John McCain's favorite insult. They're clearly very close.
The government shutdown is where the two Tea Party stars really split. Of course, the whole charade was Cruz's idea, leading to a sharp rise and fall in his fortunes. Paul was smart enough to keep Cruz close when necessary, only to benefit from his eventual downfall:
While Mr. Paul voted with Mr. Cruz on the effort to defund the health care law — pre-empting future primary attacks from the right — he also said publicly over the summer that he thought shutting the government down was “a dumb idea.” Privately, he complained during the shutdown that the effort was futile and was damaging the party.
Still, he is clearly the beneficiary of the comparison with Mr. Cruz: Establishment Republicans are lining up to heap praise on Mr. Paul, using words like “grown” and “matured” to describe him and the role he played during the shutdown.
One of these two men could come out as the party's candidate by the time the Republican primaries shake out, if they don't drag each other down along the way. The battle has apparently already begun, and so far the only winner is us, the viewers at home, who get to watch the relationship implode in real time.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.