Texas Senate Race Puts Tea Party Strength To Test

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The most talked about race in the 2012 Texas primary elections is the race for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by retiring Kay Bailey Hutchison. The biggest contenders for the seat are Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz, pitting a well connected, wealthy “establishment” candidate against a Tea Party favorite.

Statewide elections in Texas usually don’t get so much national attention because everyone knows how it is going to turn out. Texas is a red state, and it will be some time before there is even a chance of that changing.

However, this year’s Senate race has received national attention, and not just because of the candidates themselves, but by the people throwing their support behind them and by the continued efforts by the Tea Party to beat out members of what is being called the “Republican establishment”.

For many conservative grassroots activists in the state, current frontrunner David Dewhurst is the career politician with big money and an inconsistent record who is trying to simply buy the election. Lt. Governor Dewhurst has been in office for nearly a decade and holds the seat many experts say is the most powerful in Texas in terms of political influence.

His likely opponent in a runoff election, if there is one, is Ted Cruz who is running as the principled conservative and his activism in the Tea Party movement had earned him notoriety among that demographic of electorate. Also, independent voters who lean more towards conservative principles may choose to vote in the Republican Party.

On the campaign trail, both Mr. Dewhurst and Mr. Cruz tout similar talking points of social and fiscal conservatism when they are not exchanging verbal attacks on an issue concerning Ted Cruz’s professional relationship with a Chinese tire company.

In the back and forth between the two campaigns, the truth has been muddled on both sides, and the campaigns have wasted a great deal of time, energy, and money (especially Dewhurst) on petty distractions that many voters don’t care about.

Big names in the national political scene have thrown their endorsements into the race. Ted Cruz has gained the support of former VP candidate Sarah Palin, former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, Senators Rand Paul, Jim DeMint, and Pat Toomey. He also picked up endorsements from nationally syndicated radio hosts Sean Hannity and Mark Levin.

When you are trying to sell the argument that you are the most conservative candidate to the Texas electorate that is not a bad list of supporters to have backing you.

When it comes to nationally recognized figures, David Dewhurst has Texas Governor Rick Perry, Michael Reagan, and former governor of Arkansas and current Fox News personality Mike Huckabee. He doesn’t have the same amount of conservative heavy hitters on his side, but he has money, and has not shied from using it. He still holds a double digit lead over his biggest GOP rival.

Current polling throughout the state indicates that David Dewhurst doesn’t quite have a clear majority to avoid a runoff. However, he is close enough that it is still possible he could take the Republican nomination for the Senate seat without having to face Ted Cruz one-on-one.

Mr. Cruz has excitement behind his campaign, which is something that could help him in a runoff election against Mr. Dewhurst, but the Lt. Governor would still be considered by many experts to be the odds-on favorite to win. The Dewhurst campaign has increased attacks on his GOP rivals going into Tuesday’s primary in an effort to boost his numbers past the 50% threshold

Texas voters who did not participate in early voting have one more chance on Tuesday, May 29, 2012. Independent voters can choose to vote in a party primary or wait to see if an independent candidate they can get behind declares their intent to run in the general election. In a Senate race, there is a stronger chance of that happening.