Though Cruz has taken center stage throughout the defunding drama, it is the Utah senator who has for months been the quiet mastermind of the Republican effort to defund Obamacare. While Cruz railed on the Senate floor, Lee stayed in his Senate office overnight, the only senator besides Cruz to do so. When the weary Texan exited the Senate chamber on Thursday, it was Lee who carried their message onto Fox News and CNN.
Mike Lee is not trying to position himself in front of a camera. Unlike his high-profile tea-party colleagues Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio, Lee has no presidential ambitions. He looks unremarkable and talks unremarkably, eschewing the grandiose flourishes and flamboyant displays of his ideological allies and seeming content to let them take center stage.
"I sort of want to separate Ted Cruz and Mike Lee," NBC's Chuck Todd said during a discussion of the defunding effort earlier this month. While acknowledging that Cruz is "the face of this movement," Todd informed viewers that Mike Lee is the "intellectual force" behind it.