Thought I’d provide an update to an earlier post. Ted Cruz handily defeated David Dewhurst in the Texas Senate Republican runoff. Barring extraordinary circumstance, he is sure to beat Democratic nominee Paul Sadler in November.
The national version of this story was that Cruz was a Tea Party insurgent who stuck it to the establishment. After all, he had Sarah Palin’s support, and she said he was going to be another maverick against the well-known and respected politicians of the Texas “establishment.” What does Sarah Palin know of Texas politics? Nothing as far as I can see. But she is popular and she is smart enough to eat at Chick-fil-A while in state.
The truth is that Cruz and Dewhurst shared many of the same conservative positions. It is also true that Cruz received money and support from national Tea Party “institutions” during the runoff (i.e., Jim DeMint’s Senate and FreedomWorks’ campaign funds), but Cruz–a Harvard Law grad who clerked for Rehnquist and who won the admiration of both National Review and George Will—is not your typical Tea Partier.
In the runoff, anti-establishmentarianism surely played a part, but so did the endless barrage of Dewhurst’s ads presenting Cruz as Satan’s liege. Dewhurst spent nearly $17 million on the most ridiculous ads which were played on TV over and over again. This wasn’t merely an example of the diminishing returns of campaign negativity, but rather—after Texas Republicans actually heard Cruz speak for himself—it was a negative reaction to Dewhurst’s excessive and downright silly ad campaign. Dewhurst should remember the adage “who’s laughing now?” because he spent millions in attacking Cruz, all the while hoping that his own apparent name recognition (as Lt. Governor?) would hold the day. In his ads, Dewhurst presented the Cruz candidacy as if it were the young body and soul of Regan MacNeill in need of an exorcism. This sounds absurd and exaggerated, but Dewhurst’s campaign against Cruz became as laughable as Linda Blair’s spinning head spewing Campbell’s green pea soup.
I should add that as I drove around in my car I never saw any street signs which said “Vote for Dewhurst,” but I saw plenty of signs attacking Cruz. To me, this was an oddity for street sign electioneering–attack signs.
So I don’t think that Cruz’s victory is to be explained simply as some sort of “grass roots” victory. It also had to do with Cruz’s excellent credentials and Dewhurst’s bad taste. If he had only watched The Exorcist a few more times, Dewhurst might have realized that the detective in that movie was an avid connoisseur of movies. The detective would have told Dewhurst that shock can only go so far, eventually you need to show ads providing a reason why anyone should vote for you in the first place. Instead, Dewhurst got sidetracked into thinking his name alone could defeat the evil demon.
Luckily Cruz is the furthest thing from such a demon—instead he appears to be an accomplished, articulate, competent and decent man. Let’s hope he makes a good senator.
UPDATE: It is nice to know that the story emphasis and tone of my post about Ted Cruz is in near opposition to the version given in the New York Times. If only those journalists lived in Texas!