Ted Cruz, who managed to force a run-off election with current Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, deserved his victory party Tuesday night. He had a strong showing despite being outspent by a considerable margin by his rival. Towards the end, Cruz benefitted from national attention as Sarah Palin and Tea Party groups pushed his candidacy. Support from the Club for Growth and Senator Jim DeMint also helped.
With Dewhurst netting 45 percent to Cruz's 34, the two men will now face each other again at the end of July. For the Cruz team, the late primary is a good thing; summer in Texas tends to bring out right-wing voters while Moderates, it's assumed, leave the state for cooler climates. Cruz has a clear shot if he can get a few breaks—the run-off gives his campaign clear momentum and he'll likely be able to raise more money in these next few weeks.
Dewhurst still has the advantage, however. Despite Cruz's Tea Party lustre, Dewhurst has been a loyal Rick Perry soldier for quite some time. The governor's chips may be down, but the guy still looms large in state politics. The funding gap also remains; In addition to what he's raised, Dewhurst's already spent over $15 million from his own personal fortune.
And while the Tea Party element came out to support Cruz, it's easy to forget about Dallas mayor Tom Leppert, who came in third with 13 percent of the vote. Those who voted for Leppert, the business candidate, aren't likely to turn their support to insurgent Cruz. Furthermore, a ton of state House and U.S. Congressional races will also go to a run-offs—meaning turnout come July may not be as low as expected.
Not shockingly, both men claimed victory and hated on the other—Cruz claimed the run-off showed a rejection of establishment ideals while Dewhurst claimed his plurality in the election was a sign Texans don't like getting outside advice from the likes of Palin, DeMint, and others.
Those are probably the nicest things the two men have said in this race. Dewhurst's campaign turned to the particularly nasty stuff early on—ads accusing Cruz of helping Chinese businessmen at the cost of American jobs and even of being "a secret Canadian." Cruz, meanwhile, is pushing for a debate between the two so he can answer some of the particularly salacious charges. In the meantime, Dewhurst has to fend of the view that, in spite of his proximity to Perry and support for draconian cuts last legislative session, he's a big-spending kind of guy.