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October 12. 2013 1:07AM

Ayotte's got guts: NH should appreciate that

Some conservative activists are angry at U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte for not playing Sancho Panza to Sen. Ted Cruz's Don Quixote They should ask themselves: At what point did one become a RINO simply by living in the real world?

Cruz led a minority of U.S. House Republicans to insist on "defunding" Obamacare (the move would not actually have defunded Obamacare) in exchange for passing another continuing resolution to fund the government. Virtually everyone, including Ted Cruz, knew this would not work. They did it anyway. To the surprise of no rational person, the government entered a partial shutdown. All along, Kelly Ayotte tried to prevent this from happening.

After the shutdown, Senate Republicans met in a closed-door session.

One of them stood up and dressed down Cruz and the man he found to play Sancho Panza, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. Others followed the lead of the first senator, and it turned into a "demeaning... all-out attack," according to Lee. The first senator to stand up to Cruz in that meeting was Kelly Ayotte.

Ayotte did not confine her criticisms to private caucus meetings. She spoke against the Cruz tactics and the shutdown on the floor of the Senate and in media interviews. She made the point, repeatedly, that Obamacare is bad law, but this was not the way to fix the problems it has created for America. She was right. If that was not obvious from the start, it certainly is now.

Polls are showing that Republicans are taking the lion's share of the blame for the shutdown, and they are taking a beating in public approval. Last week the GOP's approval rating hit 28 percent in Gallup's Tracking Poll and 24 percent in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, the party's lowest approval rating in the history of either poll. Meanwhile, some polls are showing an uptick in approval for both President Obama and Obamacare. This is "winning" only by Charlie Sheen's definition of the word.

There is nothing heroic about foolishly leading your side to a foreseeable defeat. Ayotte deserves not scorn, but appreciation for trying to save the GOP from a disastrous scheme. It took guts for her to take on Cruz when so many others stayed silent out of fear. That does not make her a squish. It makes her a leader and an asset.


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