After spending a combined $37 million dollars, both GOP candidates for the Texas senate seat left vacant by Kay Bailey Hutchison’s retirement are confident of victory in next Tuesday’s runoff primary.
State Solicitor General Ted Cruz and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst are spending the final weekend before the vote leaving no stone unturned in their quest to get every last one of their supporters to the polls on Tuesday.
“Dewhurst backed wasteful earmarks and pushed for new wage taxes and a statewide property tax,” a Cruz ad says. “Big-spending, tax-raising David Dewhurst: wrong for Texas.”
That ad support, coupled with Cruz’s emphasis on reaching out to conservative bloggers across the country, gave him national attention. Lutz said that dramatically affected Cruz’s fundraising efforts.
“You will see people from all over the country giving money to Ted Cruz,” Lutz said. “He has made a splash in national conservative circles. Being on the cover of National Review magazine, which is a conservative commentary publication, is a real coup for somebody running for office in one state.”
All that — the money, the endorsements and the extra time to campaign — led to a second-place finish in the May primary. He only got 34 percent of the vote, but his supporters are mostly from the grassroots/activist/Tea Party branch of the GOP. And neither rain nor sleet nor July Texas heat will keep those voters from the polls. The Dewhurst campaign has failed to generate the same emotional fire, which leaves him hoping his supporters won’t skip the runoff.
“We have polled and polled, and there are substantially more David Dewhurst voters in Texas that we’ve been able to identify then Ted Cruz voters,” Dewhurst said. “But again, it’s a question of turnout.”
Recent polls show the race is a dead heat, which has led to a bloody July on TV. The Club for Growth has hammered away at Dewhurst, calling him a moderate who wants to raise taxes. Dewhurst paints Cruz as a D.C. insider, a corrupt lawyer and someone who can only talk about what he’d do in office, whereas Dewhurst has a record of already doing it.
“I have cut spending,” Dewhurst said. “I have cut taxes. I have balanced budgets. I have fought against ‘Obamacare.’ I have fought to secure our borders. I am the only literal fighter. Being in the debate club is not a fighter.”
Dewhurst is probably right about him having more statewide support than Cruz. But no politician ever got elected by winning opinion polls. In a low-turnout election, Cruz is just liable to motivate enough of his supporters to go and vote, giving him the victory.
It is puzzling that some observers are saying that if Cruz loses, it means the Tea Party is not as strong as it was in 2010. Cruz has forced the odds on favorite to spend a record $19 million in the primary — a feat that few, if any grass roots candidates have ever accomplished. While it is true that calling Dewhurst a liberal is a joke, the Cruz challenge is not so much ideological as it is institutional. If the Tea Party is a reformist movement, afflicting the comfortable is as important as winning. Call them “elites,” or “the establishment,” Republicans represented by Dewhurst are sweating this one down to the wire — a totally unforeseen turn of events.
The regular Texas Republican party of which Dewhurst is a standard bearer will not soon forget this primary. Win or lose, politics in Texas just got a lot more interesting.