All is not well in Fort Worth for Texas Gov. Rick Perry today. The governor addressed the state party convention, the largest by number of delegates of its kind in the nation, and when it came time to talk about the Texas senate race, Perry found himself facing an unruly audience. The governor is backing Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the GOP senate primary runoff, set for July 31. But the grassroots who attend the state convention skew toward Ted Cruz, Dewhurst’s opponent in that runoff. Cruz is the Sarah Palin endorsed, Tea Party flavored candidate. When Perry began to speak about his friend the lieutenant governor, the crowd booed him and shouted “Cruuuuuz!”
The boo was for Dew, not necessarily for Gov. Perry, though his support for Dewhurst hasn’t endeared him to some in the party’s base of late. Dewhurst did get into the runoff in first place, though.
If the conventioneers’ reaction is anything to go by, Cruz stands a good chance of overturning the 8 point margin by which Dewhurst led after the May 29 primary. In conversations I’ve had with Mr. Cruz and his campaign, their strategy has consistently been to get into a runoff with the better financed and better known Dewhurst, and then count on grassroots voters to return for the lower turnout runoff and deliver him the nomination. Whoever wins the GOP nomination in the statewide election locks up the Senate seat itself, since the Democrats are barely even trying to compete for it.
Dewhurst’s team has come up with what is probably its cleverest gambit in the primary/runoff so far. Cruz and Dewhurst have agreed to have a series of debates, but Dewhurst one-upped Cruz by challenging him to a Spanish language debate. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst speaks fluent Spanish and often gives off the cuff interviews in Spanish. But Cruz, the son of Cuban immigrants, does not speak Spanish.
Disclosures: I was the TxGOP’s comms director during its last convention, in 2010, and don’t envy the current one or anyone else at the party when stories like this hit the net. I didn’t endorse anyone in the Senate race but I did vote, and voted for Cruz.