The US Senate seat in Texas is safely Republican. Today, voters decide if they want tea party upstart Ted Cruz or longtime establishment pol David Dewhurst representing them. For conservatives, either would be a major improvement from Kay Bailey Hutchison, the current Texas senator and a moderate pro-choice Republican. The race is one of 10 US Senate seats up for grabs this year.
Earlier, this race was listed as one of the three tea party primaries to watch this year. While Dewhurst emerged victorious in the first round of voting in a crowded field, Cruz was able to prevent him from getting to the needed 50% threshold to avoid a runoff. That race ended with 45% for Dewhurst and 34% for Cruz. Recent polls show that Cruz (who started this race in the single digits) continued to build from that momentum and holds a 10-point advantage heading into today's runoff.
Cruz has the solid backing of the tea party, with major support in the form of television ads, robo-calls, and campaign appearances from Sarah Palin. Palin has had her hand in all sorts of Senate elections this year, and she likely single-handily pushed Deb Fisher in Nebraska over the top (and out of nowhere) in a primary there earlier this year. She tossed her support behind Richard Mourdock in Indiana, who ousted the longest-serving current US Senator in their primary. And in what was a disappointment to tea-partiers, she backed Orrin Hatch in Utah, effectively ending any shot for a tea party victory there.
But conservatives will gladly live with Cruz, Mourdock, and Fischer and Hatch over the combined opposite choices. Also backing Cruz are Rand Paul, Pat Toomey, Ron Paul, Jim DeMint and many Tea Party groups such as the Tea Party Express. His rise from unknown underdog to favorite has drawn Cruz comparisons to Marco Rubio, who went from unknown in Florida to scaring popular Governor out of the Republican Party in 2010. Dewhurst has the expected backing of more establishment party insiders including Rick Perry and nearly every lobbying group, showing his power-broking influence within the state.
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