Last night’s result from Texas officially confirmed Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee for president. However, we have known this for a long time now. The most interesting result from yesterday’s elections in the Lone Star State was the Republican primary for this year’s Senate race. Incumbent Kay Bailey Hutchinson, who has served in the Senate since 1993, is stepping down this year. Given the fact that the Republican candidate will almost certainly win (Texas has not elected a Democrat senator for over 20 years), the primary becomes the real election.
What makes this race interesting is one of the candidates, Ted Cruz, could – should he prevail – become a star in US politics in coming years. In yesterday’s vote, David Dewhurst (the current Lieutenant Governor and clear frontrunner) topped the primary with 45% of the vote. Cruz came second with 34%. Seven other candidates completed the field. As no candidate crossed 50 percent, Dewhurst and Cruz will square up in a run-off at the end of July.
At first, it may appear that Dewhurst should comfortably win the run-off. He finished over 10 points above Cruz in the primary. He possesses a large personal fortune to tap into. He enjoys widespread name recognition throughout the state having been Lieutenant Governor for almost 10 years.
It is not quite so simple. By denying Dewhurst outright victory and forcing him into a run-off, Cruz claimed a victory of sorts and can take this momentum into the next campaign stretch. He now has nine weeks to increase his name recognition (which was virtually zero when he began his campaign) and raise more funds. And his trump card is his Tea Party support. Already prominent conservative figures such as Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum and Jim DeMint have endorsed Cruz, along with organisations like the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks. These groups are likely to mobilise more money and resources to support Cruz’s campaign.
Though he is the Tea Party’s current flavour of the month, Cruz’s political persona is not limited to being an anti-government populist. He has an appealing biography and a brilliant intellect which could make him a potential national leader in the future. Cruz’s father emigrated to the US from Cuba (where he had been imprisoned and tortured) speaking no English and with $100 sewn into his underwear. He washed dishes to pay his way through school. Cruz’s Cuban-American heritage and ability to weave his family’s story into the American tale of freedom and opportunity have naturally led to comparisons with Marco Rubio.
Equally, Cruz’s academic and career pedigree is outstanding. As a Princeton undergraduate, he was a debating champion and won the best speaker award at the United States and North American Debate Championships. Like Barack Obama, Cruz went onto Harvard Law School where (again like Obama) he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. He was also a founding editor of the Harvard Latino Law Review. He served as a law clerk to Chief Justice William Rehnquist and a policy adviser to George Bush’s 2000 campaign. As Texas’s Solicitor General, he won landmark decisions before the Supreme Court. This CV has had members of the Conservative intelligentsia drooling. George Will called him as ‘a candidate as good as it gets.’ National Review says Cruz ‘possesses the intellect and rhetorical gifts to combine [his] views into a clear, cogent, and compelling conservative vision for America.’
Cruz fuses Tea Party populism with Ivy League elitism. Add the fact that Latinos are the fastest growing demographic in the United States (one in six Americans is Latino) and it becomes clear why a bright future beckons for him. But first he needs to get past Dewhurst.