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Fear and Loathing on the Texas Senate Campaign Trail (Or, My Ted Cruz Endorsement)

Few of my memories from the first RedState Gathering stand brighter than getting the chance to hear Ted Cruz speak. When I originally looked at the schedule, I had no idea who he was, so I broke away from chatting with my newfound friend Neil Stevens and attended his speech out of a sense of curiosity, and on the strength of the recommendations of fellow RedState illuminati. The big name I was looking forward to at that little gathering (and believe me, it was tiny compared to what it has become) was Marco Rubio, and his speech did not disappoint. However, when I took my seat for Mr. Cruz’s speech, I had no idea just how amazed I’d be.

In my post recounting the Gathering, I wrote the following:

In fact, the most inspiring speech for me personally was the one given by Ted Cruz. It was fascinating to hear how he ended up where he is. His father was a Cuban immigrant who was active with the pro-Castro forces in the Cuban Revolution who escaped to the US after it was clear he couldn’t stay in Cuba any longer. He showed up in Austin, TX, with the clothes on his back, $100, and nothing else to attend the University of Texas. Ted Cruz is clearly a product of, and is living, the American Dream, but he made the point that, however, extraordinary his father’s story, this sort of thing is still quite common in America. He pointed out just how great this country has become, despite being formed mainly of the cast-offs of other countries. He also made a point of telling us how he fought for conservative causes and Texas’s interests as the solicitor general of his state. He will be a fine attorney general for his state.

And from time to time, I still happen upon my copy of the bio of him by National Review that I picked up at the Gathering that year. Of course, it’s now just over three years old, but worth reading all the same. Though I can’t find a video of his speech from that Gathering, Moe Lane interviewed him afterwards, and here’s Moe’s interview from the 2011 RedState Gathering in Charleston.

Now, Ted Cruz didn’t end up becoming Attorney General, but regardless, there are few people out there who I am interested in seeing further their political careers than Ted Cruz. When I saw that he would be running for Kay Bailey Hutchison, I was predictably excited. I’d love to see him as a Senator. A bona fide conservative Senator from a bona fide conservative state. So that I am enraged by the sort of tactics employed by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, whom Erick has so aptly called DewCrist so much that I have to continually remind myself that isn’t actually his name. You don’t need to pay much attention to understand this about Dewhurst’s attacks: you can smell the fear.

The impetus behind this post came from a National Review article called “Will Fear Decide Texas Senate Race?” by Katrina Trinko. So, just what does she find Dewhurst is up to? Check this out:

At the very least, everyone has to be aware of the sway Dewhurst will have if he remains lieutenant governor. And according to state insiders backing Dewhurst’s most prominent rival, former state solicitor general Ted Cruz, it goes beyond that: They say the Dewhurst campaign has made it clear that those who want to see their legislation pass if Dewhurst remains lieutenant governor had better back Dewhurst for senate. The Dewhurst campaign denies this categorically.

One source familiar with Texas politics who supports Cruz says that he knows “a number of significant donors” who also have business interests in the state and have been “told by their lobbyists in Austin, ‘Don’t dare give money to Ted, don’t endorse Ted . . . because if you do you’ll never get anything else through in Austin.’”

A former head of a major industry group who supports Cruz says that the Dewhurst campaign emphasized to trade associations in the state that Dewhurst expects a donation from them. And the subtext was clear: Dewhurst was “keeping a list [of] who didn’t support him or contribute.”

Dewhurst is makin’ a list, checkin’ it twice. Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice. Better be nice or you might just end up with coal in your stocking and your legislative agendas quashed. Reading further, we find an interesting tidbit that might cast some light on things:

“That’s why even natural allies of Ted Cruz, such as Governor Perry, have little choice but to endorse Dewhurst,” the source adds. “That’s the power of the establishment, and it’s a real test of the conservative movement’s strength.”

Those who think Perry endorsed Dewhurst just because he was the man’s lieutenant governor ought to consider this. Obviously, there’s a chance it was all because Dewhurst is Perry’s lieutenant governor, similar to why Sarah Palin endorsed John McCain in 2010, but it’s still a fact that needs to be considered.

Then there’s this risible assertion:

The Dewhurst campaign rejects the claims. “This [is] a ridiculous allegation that doesn’t merit a response,” e-mails Dewhurst spokesman Matt Hirsch. “It’s a fantasy being cooked up by a desperate and flailing Cruz campaign.”

“Desperate and flailing”? That’s a textbook case of projection if I’ve ever seen one, and I think they know it. Dewhurst knows that his best chance of securing the nomination is to win this Tuesday. To do that, he needs to get more than 50% of the vote. However, Cruz (and to a lesser extent Tom Leppert) has been standing in his way, consistently denying him that majority in the polls. Cruz has done nothing but gain support, and the extra time that a runoff would give would only give him more time to build upon what he already has. Raz Shafer explains it this way:

Being forced into a runoff would be a significant blow for Dewhurst. The runoff election would take place in late July, with only a fraction of the expected voter turnout of the Primary. Making the runoff would also give the Cruz campaign, conservative activists and third party organizations the taste of political blood in the water necessary to incite an even more rigorous campaign through the heat of the Texas Summer, and set the state for another conservative U.S. Senate nomination triumph this primary season.

To counter Cruz’s rising support, Dewhurst and his ilk have begun releasing reprehensible line of ads, the worst of which can be found here titled “Ted Cruz a Conservative, No Way!” However, before we get around to actually discussing the content of the ad, you ought to note who is paying for the ad. It’s the Texas Conservatives Fund. It’s a group that appears to have come into existence just recently. Their Youtube account only dates from April 12th of this year. Furthermore, take a look at their spending habits, thanks to Open Secrets.org:

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That’s right, it’s all anti-Cruz, all the time. And it’s a newbie group, too. They only came into existence this cycle. Don’t let the title fool you, either. It’s not a fund for endorsing whoever happens to meet their definition of “conservative”. It’s an outfit made for Dewhurst. As the Texas Tribune reports:

Back in Austin after Perry’s high-profile flameout, [Perry Campaign Manager Rob] Johnson established and is the executive director of the Texas Conservatives Fund, which he formed specifically to help Dewhurst succeed U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Johnson said Perry’s former national finance director Margaret Lauderback, who also led the fundraising effort for the governor’s 2010 re-election bid, is the Texas Conservatives Fund’s finance director.

But now for the substance of the ad. As this post from the Dallas Morning News notes, the facts in the ad are stretched:

First, it tries to somehow make out as “un-conservative” rival GOP Senate candidate Ted Cruz’s work over the past year or so as a big-law-firm appellate lawyer for a Chinese tire-maker held liable for copyright and trademark infringement. Even Dewhurst’s ad blitz on the subject pushes the subtext — true or false — that Cruz is an unscrupulous, greedy lawyer. Being those things doesn’t make one a liberal or a conservative. Second, the ad acts as if Cruz was somehow complicit in or had control over political contributions to President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign by people at his 1,200-lawyer workplace, the national firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. Note: Contributions by other people, not Cruz. When Dewhurst has brought this matter up in recent months, we’ve repeatedly ridiculed it here as silly. It’s a guilt-by-association tactic, and of a type Dewhurst has expressed outrage over — when employed by Cruz.

But the posting saves most of its ire for the claim that Cruz opposed lowering property taxes. The full article from the Houston Chronicle that Dewhurst used gives the proper context to Cruz’s remarks. It says:

Lowering school property taxes may be politically popular but alone won’t fix the state’s school finance system, Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz told a Senate panel Tuesday.

“Lowering the cap is moving backwards,” said Cruz, referring to previous plans considered by the Legislature.

“What as a policy matter this body may deem attractive is not helpful legally for responding to this claim,” said Cruz. “All of the claims brought by the plaintiff school districts were at the end of the day about more money.”

Even if lawmakers enact new business taxes to pay for lower property taxes, school districts will need extra state revenue to meet a Texas Supreme Court requirement that they have “meaningful discretion” in their budgets and tax rates, he said.

And continues:

Cruz’s remarks cast doubt on some of the “tax swap” plans lawmakers considered last year before the high court ruling.

During last year’s regular and two special sessions that failed to produce a school finance plan, lawmakers wanted to lower the cap of $1.50 per $100 valuation and replace the lost revenue with a new business tax and higher sales taxes. They also considered adding several billion dollars to the education budget for teacher pay raises and other programs.

Cruz reminded lawmakers that more than 300 school districts sued the state because they did not believe the Legislature had the political will to raise taxes in order to spend more on schools.

“Lowering the cap is moving backwards,” he said. “The urge to lower taxes has the effect of constricting (school districts’) discretion and what the lawsuit is about is expanding it.”

So, what Cruz is arguing here is that lower the taxes would have strained the local school districts and restricted their freedom to make decisions. As the Weekly Standard piece I linked to earlier notes, it’s “hardly a non-conservative position on education and local control.”

But the facts don’t seem to bother David Dewhurst.

We can see this again in his similarly appalling radio ad accusing Ted Cruz of supporting amnesty. You can find it here. This ad, too, shows little connection to the reality, and even if it were true, it would only be a case of the pot calling the kettle black. As Big Government notes:

Establishment Texas GOP senate candidate David Dewhurst has a record on immigration and border security most conservatives would find execrable. He has supported sanctuary citieswas against e-verify, has said on record “it would not be practical” to deport illegal immigrants, is for in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, and has not taken a clear position on a border fence.

Fortunately, for us in the Cruz camp, it’s demonstrably false, and Cruz has countered with an ad of his own. It pulls no punches.

This comes on the heels of another stinging rebuke of Dewhurst’s lies by the Cruz campaign:

Ouch.

The attacks from Dewhurst don’t end there, either. As Erick has noted, Dewhurst has even attack Cruz for being backed by, of all groups, the Club for Growth. This attack has coincided nicely with a poll (pdf file) showing Dewhurst falling just short of that crucial 50%, garnering 46% of those surveyed. If Dewhurst wants you to believe that Cruz is the moderate squish and he’s the staunch conservative, attacking your opponent for being backed by the Club for Growth isn’t the way to go about doing it.

Then there’s the endorsements. Ted Cruz has virtually every major name in the conservative movement who has bothered to weigh in on the race behind him. There’s Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, the GOA, Pat Toomey, the Club for Growth, James Dobson, Ed Meese, , the Tea Party Express, Mark Levin, Jim DeMint, and so many more. Who does David Dewhurst have? Rick Perry, Michael Reagan, Mike Huckabee (lol), a couple of right to life groups, and the names of a few organizations who know its either endorse him or get the cold shoulder. The National Review sheds some light on this with a quote from Rice University Political Science professor Mark P. Jones:

“And Dewhurst is clearly an establishment conservative…He’s been a very successful lieutenant governor; he’s backed by what we often call the Austin lobby, or the principal business interests here in Texas. He’s backed by most of the GOP establishment here in Texas, but where he lacks some support is the grassroots.”

David Dewhurst wants you to believe the people endorsing Cruz are nothing but Washington insiders. Rick Perry, unfortunately, has cut an ad for Dewhurst saying the same thing. Take a look at the list of Cruz endorsements again. What about them spells “full of Washington insiders”? It’s a list full of people who have made their careers challenging the establishment.

It’s like I said before, you can smell the fear from the Dewhurst campaign. They know Ted Cruz presents a real threat. They know Cruz is the real conservative in the race, and that he stands in the way of Dewhurst’s career advancement. No amount of money can change that. People like Dewhurst (like Lugar, Charlie Crist, Bob Bennett, and others before him) hate what Ted Cruz stands for. He’s a real conservative fighter in a world of go-along, get-along good ol’ boy politics. Ted Cruz has had the guts to stand up for Texas before 90 nations and even a President from his own to defend the United States’ sovereignty from the World Court. He’ll do the same for Texas in Washington. He’s got what it takes to stand up for common sense conservative values in Washington, even when it means going against his own party, and he’s got the record (pdf file) to prove his credentials.

We need Ted Cruz in Washington. Let’s help him out. Let’s send him to Washington. We can’t let Dewhurst buy this race from us.

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