David Dewhurst is an institution in Texas. The powerful Lieutenant Governor has been a political powerbroker in the state for decades. With the backing of the entire Republican establishment, including Gov. Rick Perry, Dewhurst raised a colossal $13 million for the primary campaign. He had the support of a SuperPac, The Texas Conservatives Fund. Last week, he was on the cusp of winning the 50% necessary to clinch the party’s nomination. Yesterday, he came up far short. This is not a year for institutions.
A fun parlor game for the media this year has been, “What Happened to the Tea Party”? The absence of high-profile rallies and events have convinced them that the movement which dominated the political landscape for the past two years has gone away. It didn’t go away. It just got to work.
By just about any measure, Dewhurst should have taken the primary in a walk. He was a respected member of the party establishment. He had buckets of money to spend. The ‘tea party candidate’, Ted Cruz, was little known in the state. He didn’t have the millions in campaign funds it takes to cover the many expensive media markets in Texas. He did have the support of prominent national conservatives like Sen. Jim DeMint and Sarah Palin. And, he had an army of grass-roots volunteers. In the end, he forced Dewhurst into a run-off.
Dewhurst only received 44% in the primary. His next two opponents, Cruz and former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert outpolled him, receiving a combined 47%. The next nine-week campaign should be a barn-burner. Expect Cruz to match Dewhurst’s spending as state and national tea party groups rally behind his campaign. DeMint’s conservative caucus in the Senate is about to get a little bigger.
This year, tea party activists have already pulled off two stunning victories — Richard Mourdock in Indiana and Deb Fischer in Nebraska. Forcing Dewhurst into a run-off is a three-peat for the grass roots. Get ready for Sen. Ted Cruz.