In an 11th-hour attempt to burnish his conservative credentials before tomorrow's U.S. Senate runoff election, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst visited a south Austin Chick-fil-A Monday morning for a meet-and-greet (and, of course, a chicken sandwich).
Dewhurst is said to be trailing behind his Tea Party opponent Ted Cruz, who had support from 52 percent of likely Republican voters in a survey from Public Policy Polling released Sunday. And Dewhurst's visit to the fast food establishment carries symbolic weight because of the PR controversy Chick-fil-A has been embroiled in ever since the company’s president made remarks addressing marriage equality earlier this month.
At this morning’s event, Dewhurst championed his 2003 “defense of marriage” law and stated, “In Texas, we don’t try and be politically correct. We want people to have freedom of their beliefs, freedom of religion,” all while clutching a Chick-fil-A bag containing the chain’s celebrated chicken sandwich, according to Robert Garrett of the Dallas Morning News . Dewhurst also addressed his poor showing in the PPP poll, saying he doesn't "put much stock into" the method the organization used to conduct its survey—automated telephone interviews.
KEYE's Hunter Ellis snapped this photo of Dewhurst at the event:
Eating at Chick-fil-A has become something of a symbol for conservative Republican politicians as of late, after Dan Cathy, the restaurant’s president, stumped for the "biblical definition of the family unit" in an interview with the Biblical Recorder, a website for North Carolina Baptists. That interview was amplified when it was picked up on July 19 by the Baptist Press , the Southern Baptist Convention's newswire service.
"We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit," Cathy said in the interview. "We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that ... we know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles."
Cathy's remarks led to a boycott from liberal groups, and conservative politicians have shown their support for the chain by eating there. Just last Friday, Sarah Palin stopped at the restaurant in The Woodlands following a rally for Cruz. “Stopped by Chick-fil-A in The Woodlands to support a great business,” the former Alaska governor tweeted, according to Politico. And a few days before Rick Santorum campaigned with Cruz in Dallas over the weekend, the former Pennsylvania senator tweeted his visit to a Chick-fil-A. "With two of my boys, Enjoying chick-in-strips and an awesome peach shake at Chick-fil-A. See you here next Wednesday!” he wrote. (Santorum has joined Mike Huckabee in a boycott of the Chick-fil-A boycott, dubbing August 1 “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.”)
But this high-level conservative support might not be helping the restaurant chain. On Monday, Huffington Pos t published a report detailing a significant dip in the chicken eatery’s approval ratings recently:
Just before Cathy's interview was published, Chick-fil-A's Index score was 65, well above the Top National Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) Sector average score of 46. Just four days later, however, Chick-fil-A's score had fallen to 47, while last week, the chain had a score of 39, compared to the Top National QSR Sector average score of 43.
This is the lowest rating Chick-fil-A has received since August 2010.
For his part, Dewhurst didn’t miss any opportunities to show his support for the company during his short visit.
Garrett wrote, “As he left in his state SUV, Dewhurst rolled down the passenger window and took a bite of his sandwich.”