Cruz Easily Defeats Dewhurst In Texas Senate Runoff
Former Texas Solicitor Gen. Ted Cruz defeated Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst Tuesday in the runoff for the Senate GOP nomination, scoring another victory for the tea party over an establishment-preferred candidate in a Republican primary. With 20 percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press called the race with Cruz leading Dewhurst 54 percent to 46 percent.
Cruz's victory marks the third time this year that a conservative underdog came from behind to defeat a candidate backed by the Republican establishment in the primaries - a sign of the growing influence of the conservative grassroots. In Indiana, Sen. Richard Lugar lost to state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, while in Nebraska state Attorney General Jon Bruning fell to state senator Deb Fischer.
National Republicans quickly welcomed Cruz into the fold.
"This has been a hard-fought and spirited primary battle and the people of Texas would have been fortunate to have any one of these well-qualified candidates as their next U.S. Senator," National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn said in a release. "But I could not be more pleased with the nomination of Ted Cruz and I offer my warmest congratulations to Ted, his wife Heidi and their two daughters. He and his team ran a remarkable race and this is a well-deserved and well-earned victory.
Dewhurst entered the race last year as the clear frontrunner thanks to his imposing personal wealth and a decade of service as lieutenant governor. But a crowded GOP primary field kept him from winning a majority in the May 29 primary, setting up the runoff with Cruz.
Despite finishing 11 points behind Dewhurst in May, Cruz caught fire during the runoff. The two month extension allowed him to raise his name identification to Dewhurst's level, while his support among grassroots conservatives continued to pick up steam.
National conservative groups, led by the Club for Growth, spent millions running television ads on Cruz's behalf, helping to neutralize Dewhurst's massive spending advantage. A collection of big-name conservatives, including Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum and Sen. Jim DeMint visited the Lone Star State in the final weeks of the campaign to stump for Cruz.
The Texas political establishment fell in line behind Dewhurst, led by Gov. Rick Perry, who actively campaigned for his longtime lieutenant governor. Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and former ESPN college football commentator Craig James, the second and third place finishers in the primary, also endorsed Dewhurst.
Dewhurst and his allies attempted to paint Cruz as a pawn of his allies in Washington, D.C., like the Club for Growth. Dewhurst's campaign also tried to turn Cruz's legal career against him in a series of hard-hitting television spots.
Cruz regularly chided Dewhurst for being insufficiently conservative and labeled him a career politician.