Texas’s Ted Cruz has come a long way in his quest to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison in the United States Senate. He has spent the better part of the last year slowly closing the polling gap with his principal rival, the better-known lieutenant governor David Dewhurst, to the point that a runoff between the two now seems the likeliest of outcomes in the May 29 primary. But finishing a strong second isn’t an outcome worthy of an articulate, principled conservative such as Cruz. He can and should win a runoff with Dewhurst, become the Republican nominee, and be elected the next senator from the state of Texas.
Regular readers of National Review Online will have no doubt heard the basics about the 41-year-old Cruz from one of his many fans here. But to review: Cruz is a Houston native and the son of a Cuban immigrant; he went on to be a Princeton debate champion, a standout at Harvard Law, and a clerk for Chief Justice William Rehnquist. He advised George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign on domestic policy and served in the administration in both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission. Back in Texas, he was an able and busy solicitor general from 2003 to 2008, playing pivotal roles in Supreme Court decisions that kept God in the Pledge of Allegiance, affirmed the individual right to bear arms, and held off an attempt by the International Court of Justice (and the Bush administration) to meddle with Texas’s legal system.
To borrow a phrase from baseball, Cruz is what one might call a “five-tool” candidate: He is good on the Constitution, on the economy, on social issues, and on foreign policy, and he possesses the intellect and rhetorical gifts to combine these views into a clear, cogent, and compelling conservative vision for America. That eloquence — and the obvious biographical connection — have drawn favorable comparisons between Cruz and Marco Rubio. There is also something of Utah’s Senator Mike Lee, whom Cruz would join as a scholar, and protector, of the Constitution in the Senate. But at a certain point the comparisons don’t do justice to Cruz. It is, after all, the rare student who could draw the unalloyed admiration of professors as starkly opposed as Robert P. George and Alan Dershowitz.
Early on, with Cruz facing a 40–11 polling deficit against Dewhurst, supporters hoped the race would follow the form of the Crist–Rubio battle in Florida — with the compelling young conservative surging past the establishment favorite. But in many ways Cruz faces a bigger challenge. Not only is Dewhurst not nearly as multifariously bad as Crist — who is? — but he is a popular lieutenant governor and a hectomillionaire who has banked on that name recognition and that war chest to hold off Cruz. As Cruz’s numbers have improved, Dewhurst has gone archly negative, flooding the airwaves with lame ads that, e.g., hit Cruz for the Democratic political donations of partners at his large law firm. (Quoth Cruz: “I haven’t met half my partners.”)
In this environment, Cruz’s only path to victory is to do on the ground what Dewhurst is doing on the air — a tack he has undertaken with relish, stumping through a never-ending series of straw polls, senior centers, and barbecues to get his message out. If he cannot beat Dewhurst outright, he stands at least to improve his chances by forcing a runoff, which would raise Cruz’s profile and his platform. This could prove decisive. Because with Ted Cruz, seeing is believing.
We thus urge Texans to vote for Ted Cruz now, to vote for him in a runoff, should there be one, and to send him to the United States Senate.