Cruz, Dewhurst in TX senate runoff

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst beat Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz by 45-34% in the Texas Republican senate primary, but failed to top 50% of the vote, necessitating a run off election to be held July 31.


Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst failed to capture the 50 percent necessary to win the Republican nomination Tuesday, forcing him into an unpredictable nine week run-off campaign with former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz, a tea party favorite who garnered the blessing of conservative luminaries such as Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum and Sen. Jim DeMint.

With 95 percent of the vote in, Dewhurst was leading the second-place Cruz, 45 percent to 34 percent. Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert trailed in third place with 13 percent and former football star and ESPN commentator Craig James barely managed 4 percent of the vote.

Dewhurst, the front-running former CIA agent worth an estimated $200 million, was widely expected to end the night as the leading vote-getter so the result is a win in itself for the insurgent Cruz, who was badly outspent and suffered from far lower name recognition in the nation's second-most populous state.

The outcome marks the third victory for anti-establishment GOP Senate candidates in as many weeks. Earlier this month, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock upended 36-year Sen. Dick Lugar in Indiana, and state Sen. Deb Fischer upset two better-known candidates in Nebraska.

Facing nominal Democratic opposition in a reliably Republican state, the winner of the July 31 Dewhurst-Cruz run-off is heavily favored to succeed retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Dewhurst, who raised more than $13 million, blanketed the state with television and radio ads, including biting attacks against Cruz that accused him of supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants and providing legal counsel to a company with ties to the Chinese government.

Cruz is by no means out of it, but Dewhurst would have to be considered the favorite. Dewhurst has the support of a deep pockets Super Pac in Texas, as well as a large personal fortune to draw on for cash. He also has the support of the twice victorious Governor Rick Perry's political machine.

To overcome that advantage, Cruz is going to have to maximize the impact of his appearances. Perhaps some high profile supporters like Sarah Palin or Jim DeMint could campaign with him. Drawing big crowds would generate free media -- a must if Cruz is to avoid being drowned out by big money politics.

Palin recorded some robocalls for Cruz and Grover Norquist's Club for Growth spent about $2.5 million on his behalf. That's a good start but it won't be enough to match the resources Dewhurts can bring to the effort. In the end, Cruz is going to have to appeal to grass roots conservatives to turn out en masse if he expects to stop the Dewhurst campaign.