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Is Texas Next?

10:28 AM, May 9, 2012 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Richard Mourdock’s big primary victory over incumbent senator Dick Lugar in Indiana suggests that the insurgent Tea Party conservatism of 2009-2010 is alive and well in the 2012 Republican party. (On the other hand, Keith Judd’s showing against President Obama in Tuesday’s West Virginia Democratic presidential primary—the federal inmate won a higher percentage of the vote against the president than Lugar managed against Mourdock!—suggests something wacky is going on among Democrats, at least in West Virginia. Maybe, as Iowahawk suggests, what West Virginia Democrats were saying was, “If I had a son, he’d look like Inmate 11593-051”?) 

Dewhurst, Cruz

David Dewhurst, Ted Cruz

In any case, it seems doubtful that Mourdock’s victory will be a one-off. Where might a conservative insurgent win next? Where might Tea Party conservatism again rear its (ugly, to the establishment; fetching, to some of us) head?

Texas. Ted Cruz, an impressive young conservative lawyer—recently solicitor general of Texas, before that a Supreme Court law clerk—trails the incumbent lieutenant governor, David Dewhurst, by about ten points in the latest polls in the race for the GOP nomination for Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat. Cruz has (amazingly) raised almost as much money as Dewhurst (who is wealthy and can self-fund, however).

And Cruz seems to have all the momentum. If no one gets 50 percent of the vote on May 29, there’s a runoff, and that would mean real trouble for Dewhurst. So the question is whether Cruz can hold Dewhurst short of 50 percent (there are a couple of other candidates running in high single digits), and whether he might even get to 50 percent himself? Dewhurst seems desperate: His main advertising message now is an attack on Cruz because one of the cases his law firm (of 1,200 lawyers) has is on behalf of a Chinese company in a commercial dispute. This apparently makes Cruz a pro-Chinese Communist!

A U.S. Senate with Ted Cruz (and Josh Mandel of Ohio) joining Marco Rubio and Kelly Ayotte, to mention only two members of the GOP class of 2010, will be a much improved Senate. A Senate with David Dewhurst will be more of the same. 

So after Indiana, for the next three weeks, conservative eyes will be on Texas.

UPDATE: I regret the somewhat snarky tone of my parenthetical note about Mr. Keith Judd, the choice of 40 percent of West Virginia Democrats. According to Politico, he's pro-Mozart and pro-Nixon! Why wouldn't sensible Mountaineers vote for him over President Obama?

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