I was in Dallas over the weekend speaking at one of the rallies Glenn Beck was attending as part of his “Restoring Love” week. Preceding me on the podium was another speaker who got a lot more cheers: Ted Cruz, who is now the front-runner for the GOP U.S. Senate primary being held today. Should he win today, as most recent polls indicate he will, it will signal that the Tea Party can beat the establishment even when it is vastly outspent. As the Washington Post put it: “A Cruz victory would suggest that Republican voters aren’t just rejecting inadequately conservative candidates and longtime incumbents. The sufficiently conservative who are tied to the establishment — a word becoming more and more toxic in politics — are also at risk.”
Cruz’s opponent is Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, a pillar of the Texas GOP establishment. While he has talked a conservative game, he has often, as presiding officer of the state senate, blocked reform measures behind the scenes. He has been endorsed by Governor Rick Perry and almost every other statewide officeholder, along with 18 of the 19 Republicans in the state senate.
The latest attempt to smear Cruz came Monday. Dewhurst was in San Antonio speaking to a rally before the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Before Dewhurst spoke, retired U.S. Navy pilot Jake Elizey referenced a Cruz comment that he would be a “fighting conservative” in the Senate: “I dare Ted Cruz to come in to any VFW post anywhere in the state and talk about fighting. Mr. Cruz, you’re not a fighter because you’ve never worn the uniform.” Dewhurst did more than let that slur slide. When asked if Elizey’s comments were fair, he told reporters: “I agree with the commander.”
Dewhurst’s negative campaign appears to have hurt him with Texas voters: Several people I talked with at the Dallas event said the Dewhurst ads were undignified or amounted to character assassination. Cruz himself told me the ads make him feel he was being turned into a cartoon villain.