Reality is a bit different. While there is considerable daylight between the GOP establishment and the Tea Party at the national level, Republicans in Texas tend to be conservative and more conservative. Thus, despite millions of dollars in ad money spent by both sides to convince voters that there were big differences between the candidates, both men made a great effort to portray themselves as dyed-in-the-wool conservatives. Both pledged to rein in government spending and overturn the Affordable Health Care Act. Both favored tougher immigration laws, cutting taxes and reining in the EPA. And both made visits to Chick-fil-a franchises in the waning moments of the campaign in order to demonstrate their support for traditional marriage.
So what propelled Cruz to victory? Three factors were seemingly the difference. First, Cruz, who is a former a Princeton University debate champion and a Harvard Law School graduate, made the most out of his debate performances. Second, some Texans likely viewed Dewhurst as an incumbent, due to his 14 years of state government experience in a year where incumbency could be a liability, considering the public’s record levels of contempt for Congress. Third, Cruz is Cuban-American, and its no secret that Texas Republicans are eager to court a Hispanic population that traditionally votes Democrat, even as it is becoming an ever-greater segment of the Texas population. Thus, it is no surprise that Cruz is being compared to Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who also beat Republican establishment candidate Charlie Crist in a come-from-behind win in the 2010 election. Unlike Rubio, Cruz is an almost certain winner in November. Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994.
Yet what kind of influence Cruz will have on the Senate remains impossible to say at this point. A lot depends on whether or not the Republicans can capture the Senate, hold the House and/or win the presidency. Yet Cruz’s victory proves there is little doubt that the Tea Party’s demise has been greatly exaggerated by a mainstream media that has done its utmost to label it racist, responsible for the both the Gabby Giffords and Aurora atrocities, anti-immigrant, Islamo-phobic, or largely irrelevant with respect to the 2012 election.
Ted Cruz proves otherwise and he has served notice on the RINO wing of the Republican Party. “This race has been called ground zero in the national battle between the moderate establishment desperately clinging to power and the conservative tidal wave sweeping this country,” he told Fox News.
That message should also resonate with Americans convinced there is little ideological difference between Beltway Democrats and Republicans. Ted Cruz and his fellow Tea Party Republicans intend to challenge that status quo. And no matter where individual Americans stand ideologically, they should admire their effort to draw sharp distinctions between the parties. The bet here is most of the public is sick to death of elections where choices inevitably come down to the “lesser of two evils.”
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