In major Tea Party victory, Cruz '92 wins Republican nomination for Senate
Tea Party candidate Ted Cruz ’92 earned the Republican nomination for U.S. Senator from Texas on Tuesday night, a come-from-behind, tough victory over a well-financed Republican backed by the party establishment.
Cruz, the former state solicitor general, had trailed Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, prominently backed by Governor Rick Perry, for almost the entire campaign. An internal Dewhurst poll last November put the heir apparent at 50 percent, while Cruz sat at just six percent in the polls in the four-way Republican primary. But in last night’s runoff between Cruz and Dewhurst, Cruz earned about 57 percent of the vote.
Over the past 10 months, Cruz has slowly climbed in the polls as Tea Party conservatives rallied around his candidacy. In October, Cruz was shown gazing into the distance on the cover of National Review, a conservative magazine, which called him “the next great conservative hope.” In February, the Tea Party Express endorsed Cruz, bringing even more attention to his campaign.
This past weekend, conservatives including former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, South Carolina senator Jim DeMint and former presidential candidate Rick Santorum all stumped for Cruz in the Lone Star State.
And on Sunday, Public Policy Polling put Cruz ahead by 10 points.
“We’re on the 2-yard line. We have marched the entire length of the field. We started out up in the hot dog stands,” Cruz said at a rally on Friday, referring to his ascent as an underdog.
Cruz began to surge in the polls at precisely the right time. In May, Cruz kept Dewhurst under 50 percent at the ballot box, preventing Dewhurst from earning the nomination outright and forcing Tuesday’s runoff.
The anti-tax Club for Growth began to pour more money into Cruz’s campaign, injecting an additional $574,000 in ad buys last week as the runoff approached. The conservative group “accounted for over 80 percent of pro-Cruz independent expenditures,” according to the organization. The Texas Tribune reported that more than $40 million in total was spent on the race.
As Cruz gained steam and began to look like he would pull off the upset, Texas commentators began to note the symbolic impact of Cruz’s victory.
“If Cruz wins the race, the Dewhurst campaign will go down in Texas political history as one of the worst that has ever been run – and one of the biggest upsets since Rick Perry defeated Jim Hightower in 1990,” Texas Monthly commentator Paul Burka wrote on his blog.
In the closing weeks, the head-to-head clash turned increasingly negative and personal. Dewhurst attacked Cruz’s decision to represent a man convicted of building a for-profit detention center for children. Simultaneously, Cruz began to fire on Dewhust’s conservative credentials.
At Princeton, Cruz majored in the Wilson School and was a top national debater, winning the U.S. National Speaker of the Year award in his senior year. Cruz said in a February interview with The Daily Princetonian that conservative activist and politics professor Robert George served as a mentor to him in his college years.