WASHINGTON -- Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is catching heat from the president, the press, and even his own party. But to the conservative grassroots, he's their hero.
They showed it in a big way during this weekend's Values Voter Summit by putting the Texas lawmaker at the top of the presidential straw poll. That's what happens when you lead the fight against President Barack Obama's agenda, like Cruz has done since hitting Washington less than a year ago.
After his speech, he told CBN News the Democratic Party planted those critics in the audience.
"You know, I'm actually encouraged by that, as strange as that sounds," he told CBN News. "I'm encouraged by that because it shows that they are afraid. They are afraid of the thousands of men and women who gathered there. They're afraid of the American people hearing the truth and so they want to disrupt it."
Taking a surprising second in the straw poll was neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, a frequent critic of Obamacare who pushed it even further in front of this weekend's friendly crowd.
The GOP Divide
"Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery," Carson told the audience. "And it is slavery in a way because it aims to make all of us subservient to the government. It was never about health care. It was about control."
Speaking of control, the GOP is currently fighting about how to win as a party. The big question is whether to go more conservative or track to the middle?
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told CBN News the fight over Obamacare has revealed a weakness for Republicans.
"One of the reasons that's standing in the way of us of doing better is that while people see Republicans fighting against certain things, they're not quite sure who we are fighting for, who we are fighting on behalf of," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said.
So, while Cruz plays to standing ovations, some within his own party question whether the Obamacare fight was really worth it.
Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said shutting down the government allowed Democrats to blame Republicans for the stalemate instead of playing defense over the rollout of Obamacare.
"We gave the Democrats one incredibly early Christmas gift," Huckabee told CBN News.
"I'm not going to fault Ted (Cruz)," he added. "He believed what he was doing was going to be helpful, but in the end of the day you look and you ask, 'Are we any closer to defunding Obamacare or ridding ourselves of it than we were'? The answer is 'no.'"
Preview of 2016?
Those strategy differences could be a preview of coming attractions in a 2016 presidential race. Huckabee told us he's thinking about running.
"Am I thinking about it? Am I talking to people about it? Yes. That would be fair to say," he said.
It's also on the mind of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who spoke to the values crowd and also talked to CBN News about a private meeting with evangelical leaders.
"To me it's very important that we talk to people of faith. This country was founded by people of faith and that we hear from them and that they have influence in government," Paul told CBN News.
For now, though, all eyes are on Cruz. While a presidential run could be in the cards, he's got his hands full right now taking on the Obama administration and all those liberal critics. It leaves him doing one simple thing: praying.
"At every stage my prayer to God is that His will be done as it will be," Cruz said.
All Americans can do now is wait for the rest of the story.