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Texas Senate: Is Ted Cruz Getting Smeared by an Opponent?

We’ll begin this post with a poll, a story, and a shake-up. The poll came out on Oct 17, and revealed a statistical dead heat between Ted Cruz and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the Texas Senate race on the Republican side. Caveat: The poll was taken among very attentive Republicans, not general primary voters. Whoever wins that primary is the odds-on favorite to be Texas' next senator, since Democrats haven't won a statewide office in Texas since the 1990s. Dewhurst has long been considered the obvious favorite, due mostly to his statewide name recognition and his massive campaign war chest. The story, specifically a glowing cover story about Ted Cruz’s run titled “First Class Cruz,” graced the cover of National Review a little over a week prior to that poll. Following these two events plus the revelation of yet another strong fundraising quarter for Cruz, there was a bit of a shake-up in the Dewhurst camp.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is scooting the chairs around in his U.S. Senate campaign office. Jim Bognet will become a special adviser, working on strategy and policy. Longtime Dewhurst associate Buddy Barfield will return as campaign manager in Bognet's old spot. Kevin Moomaw returns to work on grassroots organization, and David Beckwith, a veteran at media and messaging, is back for that job.

Following all of that, plus several straw poll victories and a strong roll of endorsements including over 100 Texas Federation of Republican Women leaders for Cruz, this story emerged in the Dallas Morning News. It attempts to tag Ted Cruz with a Marco Rubio problem, i.e. not having a perfect photographic memory of Castro-related events that in both Cruz's and Rubio's cases happened in Cuba before they were born. But where Rubio's family memory doesn't entirely square up with documentation, Cruz has no such problem. He has long included his family's history in Cuba in his stump speeches, and it's a remarkable history. His father, as a teenager, was part of the resistance against the dictator Batista. He was even imprisoned and tortured by the Batista regime. That puts him fighting on the same side as Fidel Castro's forces, but in the years before Castro revealed his Communist beliefs to the world. Castro lied about his own Communist beliefs, both before and for a while after seizing power. The fight at the time, and in which Cruz's father was involved, was against a brutal dictator. The tragedy of Cuba is that having offloaded one brutal tyrant, the island soon found itself in the grips of another and more ambitious one. Families like the Rubios and Cruzes ended up exiled from the land of their birth, and went on to make amazing lives for themselves and their children in the United States. Rubio is now a senator and on everyone's short list to get on the presidential ticket, and facing a scurrilous attack from the likes of the Washington Post, while Cruz, the former solicitor general of Texas, is running to become one of Rubio's Senate colleagues. And facing down a nasty attack as well.

But none of the Batista versus Castro war has very much to do directly with Ted Cruz, at least until the DMN's Bob Garrett ran the story linked above. The gist of that story is that Cruz has "misled" Texas audiences about his father's role in Cuba and his family's subsequent escape. Cruz is getting Rubio'd, if that's a word. But Garrett finds no actual instances of Cruz misleading anyone, about anything. The most damaging material he comes up with is that Cruz hasn't mentioned his father's history in appearances over the past couple of months, as if he's obligated to recite his family history in every speech, and that Texas conservative stalwart Kelly Shackleford muddled the history a bit when he introduced Cruz at a recent candidate forum. That's it. There's no there, there.

The question is, where is all this coming from? The most likely sources are the obvious ones, the Dewhurst campaign, the Leppert campaign and the Texas Democrats. The Texas Dems fear and dread the rise of a young, dynamic and conservative Hispanic Republican to the US Senate but they're not very relevant to this story or really much of anything at this point. This attack fits their playbook, but the timing really doesn't -- they're more likely to hold such an attack until the general election. The Tom Leppert campaign is struggling to expand its base beyond the Dallas area, but may see Cruz as their nearest obstacle to getting into a run-off. The shake-up in the Dewhurst camp noted above may have come with a change in tactics and a desire to go on the offensive against Cruz to slow his momentum. The Dewhurst campaign recently tried tagging Cruz "Red Ted" in an odd attempt to paint the Cuban-American conservative as a Chinese Communist.

What seems indisputable is this: Like Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz is getting smeared, by someone.