Constantly underestimated by the Republican establishment, the Tea Party continues to prove its power in GOP primaries. First Indiana, then Nebraska. And now new polls show rising conservative star Ted Cruz potentially poised to beat ultra-wealthy Lt. Governor David Dewhurst for the open U.S. Senate seat in Texas in a classic David v. Goliath match-up.
Ted Cruz’s bio looks like he’s a character from a script for an “only in America” movie story. A Hispanic, he was born to a Cuban father who was imprisoned by Fidel Castro for opposing the communist dictator’s tyranny, who escaped when Ted’s grandfather bribed a guard to release him. Ted’s grandmother sewed $300 into his father’s underwear and he sailed for Florida. Ted’s dad was a dishwasher who worked seven days a week and married Ted’s mother. They started a business and later Ted’s father became a Baptist pastor where he continues to labor today.
This story defines Ted’s core. There was passion in his face as he told me, “My father would always say, ‘When we lost our freedom in Cuba, I had somewhere to flee to. If we lose it in America, we have nowhere to go.’ ” At age 41, you hear the concern in his voice when he speaks about his two young daughters born to his wife Heidi, when he talks about what kind of future they will have in America and the need for his generation to make things right.
Then he has a résumé that’s ridiculously overloaded. He graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School, where he was editor of Harvard Law Review. He clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for one of the most prestigious federal judges on the bench, then clerked for no one less than Chief Justice William Rehnquist on the Supreme Court. In fact, Cruz is qualified to be appointed as a justice on the Supreme Court himself.
After other impressive jobs, Ted was appointed Texas Solicitor General by the Lone Star State’s Attorney General Greg Abbott. In addition to cases before federal appeals courts and Texas’ highest courts, Cruz argued nine cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, racking up some of the most impressive wins in modern history in major constitutional cases concerning make-or-break issues for Republicans. He saved the Ten Commandments display outside the Texas State Capitol in Van Orden v. Perry (one of the rare Establishment Clause wins in recent years), then beat both the United Nations and his former governor, President George W. Bush, in a 6−3 decision protecting state sovereignty against international pressure and federal power in Medellin v. Texas. He was also instrumental in protecting the Pledge of Allegiance (imperiled by the words “one nation under God”) in 2004, and the Second Amendment in the 2008 case D.C. v. Heller.
Ted Cruz’s opponent David Dewhurst is an extraordinarily-wealthy individual, worth over $200 million, who is a stereotypical establishment Republican. While a “typical” Texas Republican is not egregiously problematic by national standards, the current disaster in the Senate (and sometimes still the House) highlight how establishment Republicans are often every bit as much part of the problem for what ails America. This race is a choice between a constitutional conservative Republican and a country club Republican.
Dewhurt has spent $10 million against Cruz, millions of it from his own pocket. Cruz has been outspent 5-to-1, yet he continues to close in on Dewhurst, with a new statewide poll showing Cruz has closed the gap to single digits. In a 9-person primary, Dewhurst leads with 40, and Cruz is second at 31. The primary is next Tuesday, May 29. If Dewhurst fails to break 50%, the top two contenders go to a runoff on July 31 where many experts believe Cruz could pull an upset.
Constitutional conservatives are enthusiastic about Cruz’s chances, comparing his race to the recent Tea Party upset where Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock–another constitutional conservative–defeated long-term Senator Dick Lugar, a GOP moderate. And the recent victory of Tea Party favorite Debra Fischer over two other conservative Republicans in Nebraska enhances those hopes.
The most common comparison, however, is when Marco Rubio defeated Charlie Crist in Florida in 2010. Like Rubio, Cruz is a young Hispanic (age 41) with a charming wife and beautiful children. They’re both seen as leaders of a new generation of Republicans, both have inspiring personal stories, and both talk about returning to the Constitution to take on decades of business-as-usual policies. And they’re both taking on a major establishment figures that many talking heads considered unbeatable.
And constitutional conservative leaders across the country have lined up behind Cruz, endorsing him over Dewhurst. Senators Jim DeMint, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Pat Toomey, and Tom Coburn have all endorsed Cruz, as has Governor Sarah Palin. Among conservative media, Mark Levin and Sean Hannity have thrown their support behind Cruz. And just today Rick Santorum also weighed in to endorse Cruz.
A Princeton and Harvard Law grad, Cruz is supported by the conservative intelligencia and glitterati, many of whom are perfectly content to make decisions for ordinary Americans–they just happen to be market-friendly decisions. Many of them are completely fine with the status quo because they are the status quo.
So when Ted Cruz promises to fight the elite and topple the status quo, he’s in part promising to fight some of his friends and take on a system that supports him. But the grassroots are looking to Cruz to do exactly that, and he gives every indication that he means to do so.
And organizations across the country believe him. He’s supported by economic organizations such as the Club for Growth as well as social organizations such as FRC Action, the political affiliate of the Family Research Council. He’s also been endorsed by a host of Texas and national grassroots organizations such as Tea Party Express.
We won’t know until he’s sworn in whether he’s able to deliver such results by taking on Republicans as well as Democrats, but it looks like conservatives believe he deserves the chance. If Ted Cruz is as good as advertised, then he could be an extraordinary new force for constitutional conservatism in the halls of power of Washington, D.C., for many years to come.