The Inescapable Logic of Nominating Ted Cruz for U.S. Senate

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 30 2012 9:04 AM

The Inescapable Logic of Nominating Ted Cruz for U.S. Senate

Public Policy Polling returns from Texas with a 52-42 lead for former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz in the U.S. Senate runoff. Are you dusting off your "how the Tea Party changed everything" columns? Do it now.

Cruz is ahead by a whooping 75-22 margin with Tea Party voters, more than making up for a 56-39 deficit to [Lt. Gov. David] Dewhurst with voters who don't consider themselves members of that movement.
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The salvation for Cruz, the thing that gave him the chance to drain Dewhurst's support, came in the form of multiple election delays. He had nothing to do with that. The Republican legislature's bungle of the new congressional district maps did that. Instead of having to face a primary on March 3, when the well-known Dewhurst could have hit 50 percent and avoided a runoff, Cruz got to run through May 29. A panicky Dewhurst responded to the challenge by attacking Cruz, because "guy you've never heard of backed by out-of-state conservative groups" seemed, to him, like an easy target. Paul Burka explains just how dumb that was.

But conservatives saw this coming more than a year ago. The New York Times was profiling Cruz last fall, because Tea Party groups kept telling reporters to check out Cruz. They are and were sophisticated. Picking Cruz over Dewhurst makes perfect political sense, especially because weak state Democrats aren't even trying to contest the seat. It's about strategy, not ideology, because I have yet to see any anti-Dewhurst arguments that point out why he's unacceptably moderate. National Review's new editorial -- their umpteenth pro-Cruz piece -- makes a bunch of anti-Dewhurst arguments ("His views — though perhaps not his temperament — would make him an ideal candidate to represent a state such as Maine") without naming a single issue on which he'd govern as a left-winger. Only toward the end of the editorial do we get some sound logic for Cruz.

[A]s 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.

Ah, there we go. Cruz is 42 and Hispanic. Dewhurst is 66 and white. For Dewhurst, this is a golden watch job -- he'd sink into the Senate the way that Kansas's Sen. Jerry Moran did. (So you don't have to google, Moran was the surprise joiner of the Tea Party Caucus who proceeded to lead on exactly zero Tea Party priorities.) Cruz could theoretically serve in the Senate for six or seven terms, chairing the Judicial Committee when President George P. Bush needs some lawyers put into robes. Or he could be picked, in his 40s, as the first conservative Hispanic on the Supreme Court. There is an inescapable logic to nominating Cruz, just as there was logic for the 2004 Illinois Democratic primary voter to pick charismatic, black Barack Obama over drab, white machine candidate Dan Hynes. Hell, I'm already opening a Word file to write my "Cruz wins national attention for prime-time Republican convention speech" story.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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