National Review already has endorsed Ted Cruz in the Texas Republican primary contest to run for the Senate seat currently held by Kay Bailey Hutchison. That we now feel it urgently necessary to reiterate that endorsement on the eve of the runoff between Mr. Cruz and his Republican-establishment rival, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, is an indication of The Editors’ belief that this race is a critical opportunity for principled conservatism and that its import reaches well beyond the borders of the Lone Star State.
Mr. Dewhurst is an undistinguished, go-along/get-along creature of the GOP leadership’s seniority-oriented model of politics. He is a student of the school of thought that rallied party operatives behind Indiana’s too-long-lived Richard Lugar when a credible conservative alternative was available in the person of Richard Mourdock. His views — though perhaps not his temperament — would make him an ideal candidate to represent a state such as Maine, where the only other option would be a Democrat to his left. But a strong conservative can win in Texas, and we have one in Ted Cruz.
Given the intensity with which conservatives prefer Mr. Cruz to Texas’s popular lieutenant governor, some Republicans have asked, not unfairly, “What’s so bad about David Dewhurst?” Six months ago, our answer might have been: “Nothing, really, if there weren’t a much better choice available. Ted Cruz is far and away a preferable candidate for conservatives seeking an effective and articulate champion of their ideals.” But much has happened since the early days of this race, and Mr. Dewhurst’s vulgar and dishonest campaign of scorched-earth ad hominem against Mr. Cruz raises serious questions about his judgment and his commitment to conservative values.
He has transformed himself from second-best to flailing embarrassment. He has run campaign ads that are clearly predicated on the notion that Texas conservatives are rubes — ads that treat national conservative groups such as the Club for Growth as out-of-state interlopers, and that attack Cruz for taking on unpopular clients as an attorney.
Consider Mr. Dewhurst’s attack on Cruz for having endorsed a bid by Senator Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) for a leadership position while declining to do the same for Texas’s Senator John Cornyn. The substance of Mr. Dewhurst’s criticism amounts to the fact that Mr. Cruz is more moved by the prospect of advancing conservatives from all 50 states than by the possibility of helping advance the career of a senator who happens to be from Texas. For many Texans, putting principle over politics must appear to be an excellent thing. Senator Cornyn is not a bad man, but he sometimes allows his party loyalties to trump his conservative beliefs — as shown by his steadfast support for the worst Republican senator, Arlen Specter, which lasted right up until the moment that Specter joined the Democrats to try to salvage his political career. Just as the Senate and the republic are better off with the reliable conservative Pat Toomey in the seat once held by the fickle and opportunistic Arlen Specter, Texas and the nation would be better off with the reliable conservative Ted Cruz in the seat held by Senator Hutchison — who, to be fair, is no Arlen Specter, but is no Ted Cruz, either.
Mr. Cruz has shown the ability to distinguish between political loyalty and the good of the country. He served with distinction in the Bush administration — and then successfully opposed that administration when, in cahoots with the International Court of Justice, it attempted to interfere with Texas’s criminal-justice system. Mr. Cruz energetically opposed his political mentors and former colleagues when doing so was the right and constitutionally necessary thing, something that cannot always be said of the Republican leadership.
Mr. Cruz’s personal credentials are sterling: An authentic conservative intellectual, he was a star at Princeton and Harvard law, winning the admiration of thinkers as politically opposed as Robert P. George and Alan Dershowitz. He clerked on the Supreme Court under William Rehnquist and is an unwavering defender of our constitutional order. Having a great deal of experience before the Supreme Court, he would be invaluable when it comes time for the Senate to vet appointments to the highest courts in the land — under both Democratic and Republican presidents. And as the Houston-raised son of a Cuban immigrant, he is proof positive that the American dream is very much alive and well — if in desperate need of defenders within the political system. Mr. Cruz can provide that defense in a way that Mr. Dewhurst simply is not equipped to do.
We strongly believed that Mr. Cruz was the preferable candidate at the beginning of this race, and the campaigns run by both men since then have confirmed us in that belief. Texas can afford to send a real conservative to Washington, and the nation cannot afford too many more missed opportunities for that to happen, whether in Texas or Indiana or elsewhere. Texas deserves something more than another time-serving Republican placeholder, and Ted Cruz is as fine a candidate as is seeking office today. Republican primary voters rarely are presented with so obvious a choice or so rich an opportunity.