Nothing new: I’ve said from the start that the nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison is Lt. Governor David Dewhurst’s to lose.
New: Dewhurst might just lose it.
Also running is former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, who has shown what some have termed surprising spunk and strength in a race against the seasoned campaign winner and self-funding Dewhurst.
I’m not surprised. I first encountered Ted Cruz in Laredo in 2003. As the state Senate Democrats’ 46-day Albuquerque quorum break ended, they boarded a plane and went to Laredo to attend a hearing on the matter in Federal court. I accompanied them on the plane, and attended the hearing in the Laredo courtroom. Ted Cruz, then the Solicitor General, was the state’s lawyer in court that day. In other words – ironically – he was Dewhurst’s lawyer in the suit.
I have never seen a better courtroom performance, before or since. He was articulate, passionate, and flat-out out-lawyered the Democrats’ legal team. By the end of that hearing, not only was I convinced that Cruz had won the day (which he did), but he was so utterly great that I myself had serious doubts as to the merits of the Democrats’ suit. I’ve been a begrudging admirer of Cruz’ skills ever since.
Based on my observations in 2003 on a hot September day in Laredo, I know Cruz will be an articulate and passionate candidate. If and when the U.S. Senate candidates debate, Cruz will mop up the floor with ’em all. And there’s little doubt that he will outwork Dewhurst in the campaign.
The Williams un-brothers – former Railroad Commission Michael, and former Secretary of State Roger – each started out in the U.S. Senate race, but quickly discovered that between Dewhurst and Cruz, there would be no oxygen left for either of them. They both jumped into a U.S. House race instead. State Senator Dan Patrick is a non-starter who won’t, and shouldn’t, run.
Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones remains in the race, but I don’t know why. She’s catching nobody on fire with her candidacy, and I expect that she will either quickly figure out that the air is thin and get out, or that she will stay, hoping that being the only woman in the race will mean something. In her case, it won’t translate to any support, and in this field she’ll come in last.
Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, who also has the ability to self-fund, is the odd man out – seemingly a solid candidate in any other race, or at any other time. My guess is that he’ll stay in the race and end up being somebody’s spoiler.
But the real story will be Dewhurst versus Cruz. Dewhurst’s strength is his personal wealth, with which everybody expects him to self-fund the race. Cruz’ strength is…everything else.
Here’s why Cruz will win the nomination: there’s only so much love Dewhurst can buy with all his money, among a Republican primary electorate increasingly uncomfortable with him, for many reasons. Cruz’ passion and key endorsements will create enough funding for Cruz to stay in the game, and as long as a candidate that good is suited up and on the field, he’ll make the big plays and ultimately rack up the highest score.
Here’s why Cruz won’t win the nomination: nobody ever loved David Dewhurst in a political race, except all the voters. Dewhurst has never run a race in which he was taken very seriously by the press or by political insiders, and he’s never managed to over-work himself in a campaign. Yet, he always ends up winning his races anyway, overwhelming opposition with a blockade of paid TV ads which nobody can match, silencing his opposition.
I still think Dewhurst is the front-runner. It wouldn’t surprise me if he won. It also wouldn’t surprise me if he ultimately came in third, behind both Cruz and Leppert. Because whoever invented the pedestal probably invented it for the purpose of knocking candidates like David Dewhurst off of one.
With Cruz at his heels, Dewhurst is more vulnerable than many believe. What am I missing?