Call it the runoff heard round the state and beyond. Last week Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst failed to hit the 50 percent benchmark to avoid a final showdown with former solicitor general Ted Cruz. The Senate race is another fight over who owns the Republican Party. Is it the grassroots-grown angry citizenry wielding pitchforks and out for blood or is it the old stale establishment seeking to preserve the status quo? These lines were somewhat blurred when Gov. Rick Perry, supposed hero of the tea party and the man who once stoked secession talk, endorsed the very establishment lieutenant governor over scrappy insurgent Cruz. Of course, a Perry endorsement hasn’t brought good fortune of late. Just ask Rudy Guiliani and Newt Gingrich. Though Dewhurst spent $15 million of his own money on his campaign (chump change), Cruz was backed by uber-conservative groups FreedomWorks and Club for Growth, which hammered away at Dewhurst for being a “moderate.” Calling a fellow Republican a “moderate” in Texas is kind of like calling him a “serial killer.” Looks like it worked.
After primary night, Cruz immediately challenged Dewhurst to five debates between now and July 31st. Cruz certainly has the debate chops to make Dewhurst look like Perry. While at Princeton, he finished first in the 1992 U.S. National Debate Championship before attending Harvard Law School. Is the tea party citizenry aware that they’re lining up behind a two-time Ivy Leaguer who graduated with honors? Isn’t that against their code of ethics? As Rick Santorum, a Cruz supporter, would say, what a snob. Meanwhile a reporter from Univision (perhaps prompted by Dewhurst) has suggested that the two candidates participate in a debate conducted in Spanish. Dewhurst, who learned Spanish in his CIA days while in Bolivia, seemed amenable to the idea. Whether Cruz, who admits that his Spanish is more like “Spanglish,” despite the fact that his father is from Cuba, has enough time to complete the Rosetta Stone speed course remains to be seen.
Beyond the theatrics of the race, a Cruz victory would have important policy implications for the state and the U.S. Senate.
If Cruz is the one who replaces the relatively moderate Kay Bailey Hutchison, who’s retiring, he would be a very different senator, beholden to very different interests. (A widely cited—not to mention glowing—profile in the National Review lays out Cruz’s positions on certain key issues.) While Hutchison has never truly been the moderate that she’s been made out to be, she has provided a somewhat bipartisan voice in an extremely partisan Congress.
Hutchison has never fully convinced voters of her pro-life credentials, partly because she has been historically vague on the subject and whether she supports repealing Roe v. Wade. Many political observers have long suspected that, deep down, she’s pro-choice. She has voted in favor of embryonic stem cell research. Cruz, on the other hand, is “unapologetically” pro-life, supporting a ban on partial-birth abortion (Hutchison makes an exception for the mother’s life), which he successfully defended in court as solicitor general. He also successfully defended parental consent laws and the prohibition of state funding of abortion. For his part, Dewhurst can tout the passage of the sonogram legislation, which requires doctors to provide pre-abortion sonograms, and the defunding of Planned Parenthood while presiding over the Texas Senate last session. In other words, they’re both more pro-life than Hutchison.
Both Cruz and Dewhurst oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants—although Dewhurst claimed that his opponent favors amnesty—and both oppose in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants, though Cruz claimed that Dewhurst supports it. Don’t worry. Neither one of them will get the Hispanic vote so it’s pretty much a wash.
It goes without saying that both Cruz and Dewhurst have vowed to defeat “ObamaCare” in favor of a “free-market” system. On behalf of Texas and four other states, Cruz sued the federal government to strike down portions of the Medicare Prescription Drug program. (For someone who supposedly favors tort reform, Cruz sure does like to sue a lot.) Due to Cruz’s opposition to what he sees as government overreach in health care, one can only assume that he would not be the strong proponent of Children’s Health Insurance Program, which Hutchison has consistently supported.
As a proud Tenth Amendment scholar, Cruz wants to eliminate the Department of Education, Commerce and the IRS. No wonder Ron Paul supports him.
Although Both Cruz and Dewhurst are adamantly pro-gun, Cruz has been honored by the National Rifle Association not once but twice for his role in defending the Second Amendment before the U.S. Supreme Court.
On social issues, not only does Cruz oppose same-sex marriage, he apparently also has a problem with gay pride parades, criticizing his one-time opponent Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert for marching in them. So apparently Cruz will be fighting to expand the ban on gay marriage to include marching down streets carrying rainbow flags. The lawsuit will be filed any day now.
And, most importantly, let’s not forget that Cruz has always been a champion of such signature conservative issues as defending the display of the Ten Commandments on state property and preserving the words “Under God” in the pledge of allegiance, which he did as solicitor general.
If our Ted Cruz turns out to be our next senator, he’s going to make John Cornyn look like, well, Kay Bailey Hutchison.