Tea Party darling Ted Cruz trounced Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in the GOP runoff for U.S. Senate, winning 56 percent of the vote to the Dew’s 44 percent.
“Millions of Texans, millions of Americans are rising up to reclaim our country, to defend liberty and defend the Constitution,” a victorious Cruz told to the crowd gathered in a conference room at the J.W. Marriott Hotel near the Houston Galleria.
Cruz credited his victory to his grassroots support and the “great awakening” currently underway in America. He also vowed “to preserve liberty and restore the constitution.”
According to the Houston Chronicle’s Mike Tolson and the AP, the list of people and entities Cruz thanked or recognized in his victory speech included Glenn Beck, God, Sarah Palin, Martin Luther King Jr., Ron and Rand Paul, Sean Hannity, Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan, and his opponent, David Dewhurst.
(Those who found themselves growing peckish as they waited for election returns and for Cruz’s speech were able to snack on bites of chicken from Chick-fil-A, that fast food darling of the conservative set.)
Cruz addressed the crowd a few minutes after Dewhurst gave his brief concession speech at the nearby Omni hotel. “We will never stop fighting for our beloved Texas,” Dewhurst said through pursed lips, according to the Houston Chronicle’s Peggy Fikac and Joe Holley. The frontrunner out of the gate, the story of Dewhurst’s Senate race, as many have pointed out, would likely be entirely different if the primary had been held in March as originally scheduled.
The Club for Growth, which poured some $5 million into Cruz’s campaign to help him go toe-to-toe with wealthy Dewhurst, cheered his victory Tuesday night.
“Ted Cruz is a champion of economic freedom and we look forward to seeing him fight for America in the Senate,” “Ted Cruz won because he clearly articulated the pro-growth message that Republican voters across the country have responded to,” Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said, according to Tolson. “Tonight, Texas Republicans have shown Washington that the people do not work for the politicians – the politicians work for the people.”
Cruz had echoed that sentiment earlier in the day Tuesday at a campaign event in Houston. “That’s the way the democratic process is supposed to work. It’s not supposed to be a bunch of guys in a smoky room in Austin picking the next senator,” he said.
Cruz is heavily favored to beat Democratic Senate candidate, Paul Sadler, who won 62 percent of the vote to beat Grady Yarborough in the runoff Tuesday.
Assuming Cruz wins the general election, the state is likely to have him around for a long time, if history is any indicator: Only three sitting (elected, not appointed) U.S. Senators in Texas history have failed to win reelection—and even then, it’s been 42 years since this has happened. ( Charles Culberson, who served in the Senate from 1899 to 1923, lost in a primary battle to Earle Mayfield. But, one term later, Mayfield lost to Tom Connally in the runoff to the Democratic primary. And, finally, in 1970, Ralph Yarborough was bested in the Democratic primary by Lloyd Bentsen, Jr., a more moderate candidate.)
Cruz’s victory over Dewhurst, the establishment candidate, is further evidence that the Republican party in Texas is separating into two camps. “Mr. Cruz’s success shows that the center of the state party has moved decisively to the right,” James Henson, a political scientist at University of Texas political scientist told the New York Times’ Erik Eckholm. “Republicans are in much more treacherous terrain, not because of threats from Democrats, but threats from within the party.”
On the day of the vote, Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey cautioned readers not to see this as a battle over ideology, as both Cruz and Dewhurst look and sound functionally the same on the issues. The real force that propelled Cruz to victory was a distaste for the establishment. “This isn’t about the Tea Party’s principles, but it definitely borrows from that movement’s rebellious nature. To steal someone else’s line: It’s the disestablishment, stupid,” Ramsey wrote.
He succinctly summed up Cruz’s appeal this way: “The draw at the moment — when you pair him with Dewhurst — is one of style and of political culture: Angry and frustrated with politicians and officeholders? Here’s the chance to dump one. Send a rebel to Washington instead of someone tainted by 14 years of experience and compromise.”
In his election night post-mortem, TEXAS MONTHLY’s Paul Burka mused on the future of the Texas GOP and Cruz’s prospects in the Senate:
The question now is how deep is the rift in the Republican party and can it be patched up? I think it can be, but only if Republicans leave their past behind. Dewhurst and Perry have been around too long. They need to yield the floor to others. Cruz, it is clear, is a great political talent. He’s the Mike Trout of Texas politics, a rookie of the year candidate who is better than the veterans. He captured the imagination not just of the Texas electorate, but of the nation. He has the potential to be a great United States senator. My first reaction was that he is an ideologue, but I don’t think he’ll remain one for long. He’s going to figure out the Senate and his role in it.
Slate’s David Weigel noted that Senator Jim DeMint, took a “brave, early stance” on Cruz, endorsing him a year ago when he was still a longshot for the seat. If Cruz makes it to the Senate, DeMint will likely shuffle him into his fold, according to Weigel, who wrote:
The goal, as DeMint and Clubbers have said many times, is to create a conservative wing inside the Senate GOP – an army of DeMints. When Cruz gets to Washington (he just has to roll over a token Democratic opponent), he joins Rand Paul (age 49), Marco Rubio (age 41), Mike Lee (age 41), Pat Toomey (age 50), and Ron Johnson (age