Cruz, a Cuban-American lawyer who served as state solicitor general, along with seven additional Republicans competing in the Senate primary, held Dewhurst to 44 percent of the vote with 100 percent of precincts reporting. That meant Dewhurst was 7 points shy of the majority required to avoid a July 31 runoff. Cruz placed second with 34 percent to secure his runoff spot.
The showing by Cruz, who was endorsed by the Tea Party Express, FreedomWorks, Sarah Palin and others connected to the tea party, marks the latest in a string of U.S. Senate victories for the movement. First, tea party challenger Dan Liljenquist forced Sen. Orrin Hatch to a primary in Utah, then Richard Mourdock defeated Sen. Dick Lugar in Indiana, and most recently, state Sen. Deb Fischer won her party's nomination in Nebraska.Dallas Morning News senior political writer Wayne Slater predicts the Cruz-Dewhurst runoff will be a fierce fight over few voters:
Cruz and his supporters argued Dewhurst was too moderate and had lied in recent days by claiming Cruz backs amnesty for illegal immigrants.
"Dewhurst failed to get a majority because he failed to fight for conservative principles. His false attacks backfired," Sen. Jim DeMint, a Cruz supporter, tweeted Tuesday night.
Cruz' backers hope to build on new momentum ahead of the runoff, believing Dewhurst's establishment-backed candidacy has topped out with regard to support.
For Dewhurst, who has served a decade as lieutenant governor, the test will be how far his deep pockets and establishment support will take him in a year in which disaffection with government dominates the voter mood.Sarah Palin’s endorsement, which aided Richard Mourdock in Indiana and Deb Fischer in Nebraska, supplied new energy to the Cruz candidacy, observes NRO's Katrina Trinko, who notes that it also helped Cruz successfully push back against a negative ad run by a pro-Dewhurst super PAC.
For Cruz, the task will be to rally a dwindling coterie of GOP activists — and some Washington Beltway free-marketeers supporting his campaign — to win the seat of retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
“Cruz will have a spike for 72 hours and get a lot of national attention,” said GOP consultant Matt Mackowiak, a Cruz supporter. “Folks who came in to support him will claim a major victory. But I do think it will be a little bit difficult to sustain that” over the next two months.
The political landscape is daunting. Perhaps only 3 percent of the state’s 13 million registered voters will turn out July 31, the heart of a hot Texas summer, when families are more interested in vacation than politics.
“Outside of the political geeks and the folks who are really interested in this stuff, this runoff race is not going to be on the minds of Texans,” said Dallas Tea Party activist Ken Emanuelson. “The people who go to vote, they’re going to be the hard core.”
Identifying those likely voters will be the immediate goal of both camps, which will set about to get lists of Republican primary voters with a history of casting ballots in past primaries.
“When Cruz says he’s a conservative, he has Sarah Palin backing him up. And for a certain segment of the Republican-primary electorate here in Texas, that means something,” says Mark P. Jones, a political-science professor at Rice University. Referencing that pro-Dewhurst super PAC’s ad, which included the line “Ted Cruz, a conservative? You’ve got to be kidding,” Jones points out that Palin’s endorsement undercut that ad. “In a lot of the broadcasts we’ve had here, that’s running right after this Cruz ‘Fighter’ ad, where at the end Sarah Palin endorses him. The Palin endorsement is undermining the next ad, because if you’re a voter, you’re saying, ‘Sarah Palin just endorsed him. Okay, but here’s the Dewhurst attack ad saying that he’s not a conservative. So either the Dewhurst ad is wrong or Sarah Palin’s wrong. But both of them can’t be correct.’”- JP
“In the end, among a lot of movement conservatives, the Palin ad really helped to counter or at least neutralize a lot of the Dewhurst attacks,” Jones says. “Sarah Palin was a much more valuable endorsement for Ted Cruz than Rick Perry was for David Dewhurst.”