Tea Party darling Ted Cruz scores huge win in Texas

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Last night in Texas, Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz defeated establishment favorite, David Dewhurst, by 13 points. Polling barely into single-digits at the beginning of the race, with low name ID, going against the well-known and VERY well-funded Lieutenant Governor, David Dewhurst, Cruz seemed like a long shot for the open seat left when Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison announced her retirement.

He enlisted the help of conservative bloggers and grassroots activists early on. He ran a cutting-edge online campaign with award-winning Harris Media and he got conservative groups and politicians to line up behind him, including Utah’s Mike Lee.

With that support came money – lots of it – which helped level the playing field against Dewhurt’s personal fortune. (As of July 25, Dewhurst had loaned his campaign over $19 million. Cruz loaned his campaign $1 million.) Over $14 million poured into the state from super-PACS, with about 1/3 of that going to benefit Dewhurst and almost all of the rest benefiting Cruz. Millions came in just the last week, making this campaign the #1 in outside dollars in US history.

However, most of that money came late in the game. Cruz and his grassroots supporters had to get within striking distance. Called the “Michael Phelps of public speaking” by National Review – Cruz got to work. He spoke at events all over Texas, in DC and elsewhere. He garnered the support of FreedomWorks early on, who in turn worked with Texas activists who never faltered, even though Cruz was the underdog most of the year-and-a-half long campaign. Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks said “Cruz’s win is the biggest this year for tea party activists, calling it “an 11 and Indiana a 10” on the scale of importance.”

According to the Daily Caller,

“It is clear that the tea party voters are still a force to be reckoned with,” emailed Republican strategist Trey Hardin. “Perry owned that state politically but his horse lost tonight. If I were the Democrats I would not underestimate the turnout machine that is the tea party. This election shows those voters are engaged and very much in play for November. As they say … don’t mess with Texas.”

Politico reminded readers there is more to him than just tea-party firebrand.

Cruz undoubtedly embraced the tea party movement, which rightly deserves a hearty share of the credit for his feat.

But Robert George, who taught Cruz constitutional law during Cruz’s undergraduate work at Princeton, said he would caution against simply branding him a pot-stirrer.

George sees Cruz more likely molding himself into a gray beard of sorts who sets out to accomplish big policy goals and is the point man on constitutional questions.

“I think what you’ve got is someone who is going to be a real intellectual leader in the Senate. The closest parallel I can think of is Paul Ryan in the House of Representatives. He’s a real intellectual leader. He’s not just a factional leader,” said George. “There’s going to be some big constitutional questions to address. … And he might be one of the few U.S. senators who’ve read Tocqueville.”

In his victory speech last night, Cruz mentioned Milton Friedman on what would have been his 100th birthday, saying that perhaps it was a providential sign. “Our crushing debt threatens our future. Every generation of Americans has given to their kids and grandkids a brighter future and brighter economic prosperity, and our generation will be no different. That is why we are rising up to take our country, to preserve liberty, to restore the Constitution,” he said.

It may be slow, but the make-up of the United States Senate is changing for the better. Congratulations to Texas for sending a smart, TRUE fiscal conservative to the Senate.

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