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Santorum's Departure: The Down-Ballot Effects Santorum's Departure: The Down-Ballot Effects

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Santorum's Departure: The Down-Ballot Effects

The Lugar campaign talks up its robust ground operation, but it certainly wouldn't hurt them if Romney's troops were working hard to turn out like-minded voters out in an even marginally competitive contest against Santorum. Now, with a general election in sight and the competition in the GOP presidential primary effectively terminated, that won't happen in Indiana. And that's good news for Mourdock. Texas: In Texas, many Santorum supporters would have likely backed former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz. Cruz, like Santorum, is a conservative running to the right of a better-funded, better-known, well-entrenched opponent. So, advantage Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst? Not quite. Cruz's base of support isn't as wide as Dewhurst's, but it's a loyal one that is likely to turn out for him regardless of what is going on at the top of the ticket. It's for that reason that low-turnout primaries typically give insurgent underdogs with loyal followings a fighting chance in state and congressional races. (For what it's worth, Cruz endorsed Rick Perry in the presidential race and didn't throw his support to another candidate after the governor dropped out.) Moreover, the primary -- which has already been pushed back twice due to a legal battle over the state's new congressional lines -- will take place on May 29, the day after the long Memorial Day weekend, when some voters will still be away. Absent a competitive presidential race, turnout could be especially low. All Cruz has to do is finish second and prevent Dewhurst from getting more than 50 percent of the vote. With no competitive presidential primary and no motivation for Romney supporters -- who are a more natural fit for Dewhurst -- to turn out, the late May primary looks like a real opportunity for the underdog to take advantage of circumstances beyond his control. For Cruz, a focus on encouraging ardent supporters to vote while a significant portion of the rest of the GOP electorate is tempted to stay home could be enough to force a little overtime in the Lone Star State.

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