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Ted Cruz's Bid to Be the Next Republican Senator from Texas

10:10 AM, Apr 11, 2011 • By FRED BARNES
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Ted Cruz, a conservative popular among Tea Party activists, has raised more than $1 million this year in his bid for the Republican nomination to succeed three-term Texas senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is retiring in 2012.

Ted Cruz

In an announcement today, Cruz says he’s received donations from 1,100 persons from 122 Texas towns and from 37 states. He announced his candidacy on January 19 and raised $100,000 a week for over 10 weeks.

Cruz’s fundraising in the first three months of 2011 signifies that he’s a serious candidate, though hardly a frontrunner.  He’s never been elected to public office, but was considered a shoo-in to be elected state attorney general in 2010 if incumbent Greg Abbott had sought higher office. Abbott chose to run for reelection.

Cruz, 40, faces a crowded field in the Senate race. Five candidates have already announced. And when the Texas legislature adjourns in May, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst is likely to join the field. Dewhurst would be the instant frontrunner.

Some Texas Republicans think Cruz is overreaching in seeking the Senate seat and should wait until 2014 to run for attorney general. Cruz, after campaigning for AG for a year until Abbott decided to run again, thought otherwise.

“I believe I’ve got the strongest proven record as a conservative, standing up [and] fighting for conservative principles and winning on a national level,” he told the Texas Tribune recently.

Democrats haven’t won a statewide election in Texas since 1994, but some party leaders have suggested that Democratic prospects may be brighter next year. However, no Democrat has announced for Hutchison’s seat. Republicans believe the winner of their primary next March is all but certain to prevail in the general election next November.

Holding the Texas seat is important to Republican prospects for gaining control of the Senate in 2012. Losing a solidly Republican seat—Hutchison was first elected in 1993—would put GOP chances in serious jeopardy.

To win the nomination, Cruz must first emerge as the main challenger to Dewhurst, the best known, wealthiest, and the leading officeholder of the candidates. “He can write his campaign a check for $25 million,” a prominent Texas Republican says.

In a statewide poll conducted in February by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune, Dewhurst was favored by 27 percent of Republican voters. Cruz was far behind at three percent. The other candidates: Michael Williams, a former state railroad commissioner, five percent, railroad commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, three percent, and former Texas secretary of state Roger Williams, two percent. Leppert was not a candidate at the time.

Cruz is focusing his campaign on “the need for new leadership” and his “proven conservative record.” All the candidates call themselves conservatives, but Cruz may be the most conservative of the bunch. He is angling for the endorsements of two significant players in Republican primaries, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina and the Club for Growth.   

A Cuban-American, Cruz was Texas solicitor general, an appointed post, from 2003 to 2008 and argued nine cases in front of the Supreme Court. He was a domestic policy adviser to George W. Bush in the 2000 campaign, and then worked for the Bush administration in Washington.

He has an impressive record outside politics: Princeton, Harvard Law School, Supreme Court clerkship to the late Justice William Rehnquist.

His chief task now is fundraising. With little name ID across Texas, Cruz may need as much as $10 million to raise his visibility among Republicans and deliver his conservative message. This means he will have to continue bringing in, on average, $100,000 a week or more, a difficult job for a candidate without high name recognition.

Cruz’s fundraising of more than $1 million included a $70,000 loan from Cruz to his campaign. “Conservatives in the Senate desperately need reinforcements,” he said in a statement.

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