U.S. Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC) (R) leaves the weekly Senate Republican Policy Luncheon at the U.S. Capitol with Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) December 18, 2012 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
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Who’s really running the Republican party?

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Former Sen. Jim DeMint delivered a letter to President Obama Thursday morning laying out the Heritage Foundation’s official position on the government shutdown and debt ceiling debate.

“We believe the law should be fully repealed, but at minimum,” he wrote, according to a copy published by Politico, “both sides should agree not to fund the law for one year-a ‘time-out’ that would halt the law’s most harmful effects before they start.”

But while it wasaddressed to President Obama, the letter might as well have gone directly to Speaker John Boehner, because DeMint was laying out the GOP’s position–or at least what he thought it should be. He’s proved he’s willing to spend the money to win over the party too,

In August, Heritage spent more than half a million dollars on local ads pressuring House Republicans who’d yet to sign on to the defund Obamacare effort. Of the 100 Republicans targeted in ads, only four have indicated they could support the “clean” continuing resolution that would put the government back in working order without defunding or dismantling the Affordable Care Act.

(The Heritage Foundation has run away from the fact that Obamacare is largely Heritage’s own invention.)

The former Senator from South Carolina was one of the early leaders in the movement to destroy the Affordable Care Act. In 2009 he said. “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.”

Four years later, he’s continuing that battle from what might be a more powerful position, as head of the Heritage Foundation. He’s aided by a team of proteges in the Senate, relative newcomers who may not tow the mainstream or centrist Republican party line, but fall right in line with DeMint’s bidding. Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul aren’t just some of the driving forces behind the government shutdown, they’re also were all backed by DeMint in their recent elections.

How devoted is Cruz to DeMint’s philosophy? Just listen to him gush about his mentor.

“Some people wear Superman pajamas. Well, Superman wears Chuck Norris pajamas,” Cruz said in May. “And Chuck Norris wears Jim DeMint pajamas.”

While the Tea Party stars of the Republican party may be devoted followers of DeMint’s, his position may not be helpful for the Republicans in the long run. He has insisted that it was a lack of conservative leadership that hurt Romney and other Republicans in the elections.

“Republicans were told, ‘Don’t do anything. Don’t be the issue. Don’t stand for anything. Make it about Obama.’ What happened in 2012 was that there was a void of any inspiration, any attempt to lead,” he said, according to Bloomberg. “It certainly wasn’t because the party was too conservative-it was because there was no conservative leadership at all!”

But after ten days of government shutdown, the polling paints a much different picture. The intransigent Republican party has watched its approval ratings plummet. The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows the party’s approval ratings tanking since last month, and other polls have said the same.

NBC News’ Frank Thorp contributed to this report.

Affordable Care Act, Barack Obama, Government Shutdowns and Obamacare

Who's really running the Republican party?

Updated