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Lee’s shutdown strategy: some see it as brilliant, others a giant blunder

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Shooting hostages • But some Republican colleagues believe this is an unwinnable fight and that Lee, Cruz and their supporters have made a huge strategic blunder.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., one of the nation’s most conservative senators, said shortly before the shutdown began that he expects the GOP to eventually "fold like hotcakes" after about a week.

At a glance

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"You do not take a hostage you are not going to for sure shoot," he told a group of reporters. "And we will not for sure shoot this hostage."

In a closed-door meeting, GOP senators lobbed heavy criticism at Cruz and Lee, which the Utah Republican described on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show as "an all-out attack" by so many senators that he lost count.

"It was unflattering. It was unfair. It was demeaning. It was demeaning to Senator Cruz and me," he said. "But more than anything, it was demeaning to those who engaged in the attack."

So far, about 20 House Republicans have announced their willingness to pass a bill reopening the government with no conditions, the position favored by President Barack Obama and the Democrats. None is from Utah.

Among that group is Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who has increasingly trained his fire on Cruz.

"I think Ted Cruz is a fraud; he’s the one who led this and Mike Lee was his accessory," King told The Tribune. "I think both of them have done tremendous damage to the party, the Congress and the country."

The White House has been adamant it won’t negotiate when it comes to implementing the health care law and that Obama won’t be "held hostage by these partisan ideological demands."

Democratic National Committee Press Secretary Michael Czin said Lee doesn’t seem to fully understand the impacts to his own state from his efforts to kill Obamacare.

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"The fact is people are hurting from this shutdown — in Utah and across the country — and Senator Lee would rather downplay the consequences of his shutdown than get the government back open," Czin said. "There are the votes in the House and Senate to pass a clean continuing resolution to open the government, but Republicans like Senator Cruz, Speaker [John] Boehner and Senator Lee refuse to let that happen."

Even in politically red Utah, a new poll reveals, most residents don’t like shutting down the government as a way to end Obamacare.

The KSL/Deseret News survey, conducted Thursday, shows 56 percent disapprove of that tactic, while 37 percent back it.

Utahns are more closely divided in placing blame for the government shutdown. Some 41 percent point to both parties, while 20 percent take aim at Republicans, and 21 percent says it’s the president’s fault, according to the survey. Only 6 percent blame Democrats in general.

Utahns are also mixed on Lee’s job performance. The KSL/Deseret News survey says 43 percent approve of the junior senator’s work while 35 percent disapprove. The poll carries a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.

Cruz, Lee fans • And yet, back home and across the country, a core group of conservatives is heralding Lee and the shutdown itself, hoping the self-made crisis will result in a more serious attempt to reduce federal spending and revamp a health law seen as an overreach.

Cruz and Lee have become the darlings of the conservative media sphere, with RedState’s Erick Erickson calling the two "commanders of the conservative army."

In a column for Breitbart, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said Cruz and Lee are the "brave men who tried to do something."

"Ted Cruz and Mike Lee fought to fulfill the campaign promises every Republican made," Palin wrote, "and their actions have been revelatory for all of us."

Much closer to home is Mapleton resident Bob Friel, a Republican who follows politics closely, and said he’s "loving" the shutdown.

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