TX Senate: Ted Cruz defeats David Dewhurst

Ted Cruz, who was backed by the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, has won the Republican nomination for United States Senate in Texas, defeating Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the runoff last night by roughly 12 points:

Ted Cruz, the former solicitor general supported by the Tea Party, defeated long-time Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, R-Texas, in a primary runoff that effectively decides who will serve as the next U.S. Senator from Texas.

The Associated Press called the race for Cruz the first 22 percent of votes counted showed him with 53 percent support, as Roll Call noted, despite Dewhurst loaning himself over $24 million during the primary.

Cruz received strong support from Tea Party figures such as Sarah Palin and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., whose Senate Conservatives Fund spent $1.3 million on behalf of Cruz and raised another $700,000 for his campaign.

“This is another victory for conservatives and it shows that the Tea Party can still defeat the Republican establishment if it wants to,” said Senate Conservatives Fund executive director Matt Hoskins. “This wasn’t a fluke. Ted Cruz was massively outspent in a state of 25 million people and he still won. If conservatives can win a race like this in Texas, they can win anywhere.”

When Cruz took the stage last night to greet enthusiastic supporters, he said, “Wow. We did it.” Those words may seem trite and over-used, but in this case, they do speak volumes. Dewhurst, who was backed by the state’s GOP establishment, was viewed as the odds on favorite to win the race. But just before the primary in May, Cruz started gaining in the polls, keeping Dewhurst under the 50% needed to avoid a runoff.

And while many have discounted the Tea Party movement after Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) managed defeat Dan Liljenquist, Katrina Trinko notes that Cruz’s victory came largely at the hands of Tea Party voters:

So why did Cruz win? Well, one significant change: the percentage of tea-party voters he was attracting. A late May PPP poll, taken before the first round of the primary, showed that 38 percent of Tea Partiers backed Cruz, while 39 percent backed Dewhurst. But in PPP’s poll from this past weekend, that dynamic had changed significantly, with Cruz now getting 75 percent of tea partiers and Dewhurst winning only 22 percent.

In addition, Dewhurst’s attack ads may have backfired, making him a less likeable figure to voterd and failing to tarnish Cruz’s reputation significantly. (Dewhurst’s negative ads in the primary may have also helped raise Cruz’s name ID.)

And while Dewhurst didn’t have any “oops” moments in the three debates he had with Cruz during the runoff, it was Cruz, who is a lawyer, who tended to shine on the debate stage, not Dewhurst.

This win isn’t just impressive and important in terms of the Tea Party movement, but also other aspected that some people may not see as being as important. However, Dave Weigel notes the cultural aspect of the race:

Cruz is 42 and Hispanic. Dewhurst is 66 and white. For Dewhurst, this is a golden watch job — he’d sink into the Senate the way that Kansas’s Sen. Jerry Moran did. (So you don’t have to google, Moran was the surprise joiner of the Tea Party Caucus who proceeded to lead on exactly zero Tea Party priorities.) Cruz could theoretically serve in the Senate for six or seven terms, chairing the Judicial Committee when President George P. Bush needs some lawyers put into robes. Or he could be picked, in his 40s, as the first conservative Hispanic on the Supreme Court. There is an inescapable logic to nominating Cruz, just as there was logic for the 2004 Illinois Democratic primary voter to pick charismatic, black Barack Obama over drab, white machine candidate Dan Hynes. Hell, I’m already opening a Word file to write my “Cruz wins national attention for prime-time Republican convention speech” story.

There is a lot of talk about Latino voters not being attacted to Republicans due to their stance on immigration (and I disagree with Republicans on that issue, but that’s a topic for another time), but now you have two Hispanics — Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) — becoming factors in politics; and they’re both conservatives. That may not change the narrative for now, but these guys will be the face of the conservative movement in many way, not just because of their ethnic, but also because also because they young and excellent representatives of their beliefs.

Cruz now heads to what will very likely be a win in the fall, given that Texas is an solid Republican state. Congrats to him and, as Martin wrote last night, the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, two groups working hard to put good fiscal conservatives in office.

Photo courtesy of the Houston Chronicle

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