National Journal takes an in-depth look at how Sen. Mike Lee has transformed his reputation over the last 18 months from divisive Tea Party radical to intellectual powerhouse of the conservative reform movement.
Reports Michelle Cottle:
The cynical take on Lee’s transformation from provocateur to pragmatic wonk is that he pivoted once his own political ambitions were threatened. Others see it as a sign that he is a fast learner. “Most Republican politicians are very dedicated to the idea that you should not learn anything from anything you experience,” says Ben Domenech, publisher of the conservative website The Federalist and a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute. By contrast, he says, “Lee has taken lessons from his early experience in the Senate to basically say, ‘How do you achieve incremental change in a positive direction?’ ” Others, meanwhile, reject the idea of a pivot altogether. “I still think he’s as gutsy and bold as ever,” says Adam Brandon, CEO of the tea-party group FreedomWorks, which has long been a staunch Lee supporter. “It’s just that we don’t have a showdown moment now.”