Cruz’s Campaign

by Ramesh Ponnuru

All along Ted Cruz has had a theory of the Senate race he’s in. He was much less well-known than David Dewhurst, the lieutenant governor. Dewhurst had a lot of money and establishment support. Cruz — an old friend of mine from college — figured that he didn’t need to match Dewhurst’s campaign spending dollar for dollar. He just needed to raise enough money to get his message out—and when he did, his ideological conservatism would be attractive to Texas Republican primary voters.

When Dewhurst beat Cruz by ten points in the May 29 primary, some observers thought that the strategy had failed: There was no way Cruz could make up that gap in time for the run-off. Cruz, on the other hand, knew that the gap was a lot smaller than it looked. “In early voting, he beat me by 18 points—just clobbered us,” Cruz told me this morning. Among voters who cast their ballots on election day, Dewhurst won by only 41–38. Cruz attributed the swing to his campaign’s concentrating its spending in the end of the voting period.

This view of the primary results had two consequences. First: “It wasn’t a ten-point race. It was effectively tied.” Second: Cruz’s theory was correct. As his name recognition, and his campaign spending, increased, so would his support.

The Dewhurst campaign responded to the threat in the most unimaginative way possible: a slew of harshly negative ads that were too over-the-top to be credible. “As the campaign has fallen in the polls the attacks have gotten nastier and nastier and nastier. We have not responded in kind,” says Cruz. “Everywhere I go across the state we’re hearing voters say they are disgusted by these personal attacks.”

Now almost all the polls are showing Cruz up, and some of them are showing him up big. About those polls, Cruz says, “They’re consistent with what we’re seeing. Every sign we’re seeing is encouraging.” They seem to be consistent with what the Dewhurst camp is seeing too. Anonymous Dewhurst allies are scurrying away from their candidate in the press.

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