By Team Cruz
Will the tea party deliver another knockout to an establishment Republican on Tuesday? Tea-party groups like FreedomWorks have recently contributed to upsets in Indiana and Nebraska. The next victim of conservative voters' rage against the GOP machine may be Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who is seeking his party's nomination for the U.S. Senate.
A year ago, when Kay Bailey Hutchinson announced she would not run for re-election to the Senate, Mr. Dewhurst--who has managed the Texas Senate with an iron fist for a decade--was all but measuring the curtains for his new office in Washington, D.C. But that was before former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz threw his hat in the ring.
Now, in the final frantic days of the primary race, Mr. Dewhurst has dumped another $6 million of his own money into his effort to ward off Mr. Cruz (after an initial amount of at least $2 million). Mr. Dewhurst is stalled at 40% support among likely Republican voters, according to a University of Texas poll, with Mr. Cruz gaining ground at 31%. Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and former Texas football star Craig James trail further behind. If Mr. Dewhurst fails to win more than 50% on Tuesday, he's headed to a runoff in late June.
"If we can get Dewhurst in a runoff, we win," Mr. Cruz predicts. A former state solicitor general and clerk to Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, the 41-year-old Mr. Cruz has become a conservative cause célèbre. "First Class Cruz" was the title of a National Review magazine cover story last year, and columnist George Will calls him "as good as it gets."
Mr. Cruz is a staunch defender of states' rights, or what he calls the "forgotten Ninth and 10th amendments." He was the lead lawyer representing Texas before the Supreme Court in Medellin v. Texas (2008), after the International Court of Justice had tried to override Texas's justice system, and in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) he wrote the amicus brief on behalf of 31 states challenging a gun-control law on Second Amendment grounds.
He favors school choice, personal accounts for Social Security and a "low uniform tax rate--either a flat tax or the FairTax," he says, and his goal in the Senate would be to "cut federal spending as much and as quickly as possible." He's contemptuous of congressional Republicans who suggest that some of the popular features of ObamaCare can be retained. "I will work to repeal every last word of the law," he insists.
Mr. Cruz is hoping to follow the political script of Mr. Rubio, who defeated a moderate Republican, Florida's then-Gov. Charlie Crist. Mr. Crist had an enormous lead in cash and endorsements until Mr. Rubio attacked his non-conservative positions on the stimulus and other issues. The Texas race presents "a sharp contrast between a timid career politician and a true lifelong conservative," says Mr. Cruz, who dismisses his opponent as "a consummate inside deal maker."
Mr. Cruz has criticized Mr. Dewhurst sharply over his 2005 flirtation with an income tax. During budget negotiations that year, Mr. Dewhurst floated the idea of a wage tax and a 4% business-profits tax, arguing that it was time for business "to pay its fair share." Texans detested the ideas, and Mr. Dewhurst backed away. He now insists that Texas will have an income tax "over my dead, cold political body," and he touts having cut taxes 51 times in office.
As Tuesday's vote approaches, the race has taken a nasty turn. Mr. Dewhurst calls his opponent "Washington lawyer Ted Cruz" and has accused him and his law firm of defending a Chinese tire company that allegedly violated the patents of a U.S. firm and then "stole American innovation and American jobs." Mr. Dewhurst is also accusing Mr. Cruz of supporting "amnesty for illegal immigrants," which Mr. Cruz calls a "scurrilous lie." Super PACs supporting Mr. Dewhurst have also attacked Mr. Cruz's law firm for raising $200,000 for Barack Obama's campaign.
This week Mr. Cruz got a timely boost from the endorsement of Sarah Palin. That's the same Sarah Palin who endorsed two underdog conservative Senate candidates before they won in the Indiana and Nebraska primaries.