August 28, 2012 | 6 comments
Ted Cruz may be the Tea Party choice, but can he overcome David Dewhurst’s connections?
By conservative acclamation, Ted Cruz should be headed to the U.S. Senate.
The Harvard law grad has been deemed “the next great conservative hope” by National Review. As the son of a Cuban exile, he has at times been compared to fellow Tea Party darling Marco Rubio. During Cruz’s tenure as Texas solicitor general, he argued cases defending the Ten Commandments monument, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Second Amendment before the Supreme Court.
But whether Texas voters will heed the talk-radio consensus is another question.
After the Tea Party’s rise in 2010, a surge of grassroots candidates began challenging the GOP establishment from the right. No race exemplifies that trend more profoundly right now than the battle between Cruz and Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst. Because the May 29 Republican primary failed to produce a majority winner — Dewhurst fell shy of the threshold with 45 percent of the vote; Cruz trailed with 34 percent — the two front-runners will now face off in a July 31 runoff.
Cruz told TAS that he remains confident of victory. In the last weeks of the primary race, Cruz’s campaign secured endorsements from Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin, and Sean Hannity, among other notable conservatives, and — surely it was no accident — closed in on Dewhurst’s lead. Cruz said he’s positive that this was “a demonstration of the strong momentum of the campaign.”
Indeed, though Cruz still trailed in the primary by 11 points, a September poll showed him down by as many as 29 points. It’s clear he has made up some of that ground. But he has run most of the race against the wind.
Dewhurst, the state’s three-time lieutenant governor and a self-made energy mogul, has to his advantage extensive political experience, connections, and personal wealth — in this race alone, he has spent a staggering $9 million of his own fortune. He also has the endorsement of longtime Texas Governor Rick Perry, with whom he claims to share “one of the most fiscally and socially conservative records in America.”
Perry’s backing has made a difference. William Lutz, managing editor of the Lone Star Report, pointed out that “just about everything that Rick Perry is taking credit for was through Dewhurst…if you like Perry, you have to like Dewhurst because, to some extent, they have the same record.”
For some, that record demonstrates Dewhurst’s conservative bona fides. Joe Pojman, founder of Texas Alliance for Life, which endorsed Dewhurst, said his tenure has been “a litany of one pro-life success after another.”
But there’s also no denying that the lieutenant governor has made plenty of friends and built up substantial political capital over his 14 years in state elected office — first as land commissioner, then, starting in 2003, as lieutenant governor under Perry. Lutz said that “part of the reason the pro-life groups are all endorsing Dewhurst — even though Ted Cruz is also pro-life — is because they’ve worked with him for 10 years.”
A look at each candidate’s endorsement page is instructive. Cruz’s reads like a who’s who of conservatism. Sarah Palin. Rick Santorum. Jim DeMint. Ron Paul. Rand Paul. Mark Levin.
Dewhurst’s reads like a list of those whose backs he’s scratched. Texas Credit Union League. Texas Oil and Gas PAC. Texas Restaurant Association. Texas Municipal Police Association.
WITH JUST OVER A MONTH remaining before the runoff, Cruz’s chances remain uncertain.
Not only has the level of spending, at more than $31.6 million so far, been “Texas-sized,” the campaigns have been less than civil. Dewhurst has targeted Cruz’s involvement with two Hispanic organizations to paint his opponent as a proponent for amnesty for illegal immigrants. (Both organizations say they support no such thing.) The allegations have been widely condemned by conservative media and figures like George P. Bush, who said that “[this] is the type of divisive racial politics used by President Obama and the Democrats. It has no place in the Republican Party.”
But Dewhurst’s campaign stands by the charge.
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