Perhaps no bigger upset has occurred this election cycle than what transpired on Tuesday, July 31st, in TX. Formerly little known state Solicitor Ted Cruz, with the help of grassroots conservatives and outside groups, won a late Senate primary run-off against TX establishment giant and favorite David Dewhurst. Dewhurst, the Lt. Governor and thus presiding officer of the Senate won the first round but failed to hit 50%. This left an opening for Cruz to exploit after the first primary results and oh did he.
Dewhurst had the backing of Governor Rick Perry and much of the DC and state establishment. In fact, 18 of the 19 TX Republican state senators, endorsed his campaign last week. Cruz on the other hand found support among younger conservative activists. And his biggest help came from third-party groups like the Tea Party Express and Club for Growth spending on his behalf. Dewhurst had significant backers himself but towards the end of the race depended on his deep pockets to keep his campaign afloat. National conservative figures such as SC Senator Jim Demint (R-SC), Fox News anchor Sean Hannity, former PA Senator Rick Santorum and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin backed and fundraised for Cruz.
While supporters of either campaign may beg to differ the truth is there was little ideological distance between the two candidates. They both stood against gay marriage, against abortion, for cutting spending, holding the line on taxes and making government operate more efficiently. They both opposed Obamacare and in ardent language opposed illegal immigration. Dewhurst presided over the most conservative legislation session in recent state history, seeing laws requring women undergo sonograms before they decide to have an abortion and Voter ID go into effect. But in terms of temperament, bearing, background, style and rhetoric the candidates were starkly different.
Dewhurst’s record of working in the state Senate established he has a temperament that can work well with others. To keep the legislative session moving he occasionally compromised with Democrats. By contrast, Cruz’s entire Senate campaign was based on running against his OWN party. Coming into the Senate with the same attitude is sure to turn off Democrats and some Republicans as well. Dewhurst carries himself very easily. Afterall, he has accomplished much in his 60+ years of life. Cruz on the other hand at times can seem uncertain. In an interview with Roll Call’s Charles Rothenburg he was described as nothing more than a candidate spouting attack points against Dewhurst and only connecting with voters on the issues and little else.
Dewhurst and Cruz come from different backgrounds. Dewhurst was born and raised in TX, and went into business. Cruz was born in Canada after his parents immigrated there from Cuba. Cruz went to Harvard and Princeton Law Schools and clerked for then Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Cruz did open a law firm in TX after his time at Princetone and Harvard. These different backgrounds shaped the candidates. Dewhurst was more willing to work within the establishment of the state party. Cruz, on the other hand chose not too.
This leads into differences in the candidates styles and rhetoric. Dewhurst’s style and rhetoric is far more laid back and careful from Cruz’s. Yet when pressed by the media he does not shy away from giving tough and blunt answers to tough questions. When it comes to working with others his time in the state Senate stands for itself (good or bad). Cruz on the other hand seems much more of an attack dog. During the course of his campaign he made vows Dewhurst did not, such as literally coming close to uttering the words “I will not work with Democrats.” He relentlessly attacked Austin and DC non-stop. Funny now that he is likely to go to one of the placex he so vehemently attacked.
The differences in the candidates ages matter. Dewhurst would have been 66 going into the Senate. Cruz is a mere 41 years old. If Cruz decides to stay there he could have a much more lasting impact on the Senate. Already, the GOP has seen new, young additions to its ranks in the form of Senators Mike Lee (UT), Rand Paul (KY) and Pat Toomey (PA). These Senators from 2010 join a growing rank of GOP Senators like Jim Demint in the Senate and Ron Paul in the House who are causing the old-guard GOP headaches.
These old-guard Republicans are a mix of pre-Republican and Republican Revolution Senators and Congressman. These members, like House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell believe they have to work with the other side without compromising conservative principles. But some of the GOP’s newest additions in the House and Senate after 2010 disagree. Cruz is set to join their ranks and add to their voice. For these old-guard Republicans this is likely to only cause problems as the party seeks to reach out to a growing Hispanic and an increasing single mother bloc. Further it is likely to hinder and not help negotiations on the reducing the debt, spending and avoiding seeing any of the Bush tax cuts expire. The GOP Caucus is slowly but surely becoming much more conservative and ideologically rigid, just as the Democratic party has since 2010-, while slightly less white.
Democrats will field state Representative Paul Saddler in the general election. Assuming Cruz gets past his opponent, which he is almost 100% sure to do, he is the next Senator from Texas. He will be Hispanic and far more conservative than his predecessor (Kay Bailey Hutchinson) was or for that matter the Tea Party’s other Hispanic darling, Florida Senator Marco Rubio is. Cruz’s voice and decisions seem certain to reverberate through the halls of Congress for a long time.