Former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz (above) has strong support from several conservative outside groups, including FreedomWorks and Sens. Jim DeMint and Rand Paul.
Texas has about 20 individual media markets and is one of the most expensive states in the country in which to advertise effectively. Most campaigns are won on television with million-dollar-per-week buys, with radio a factor in some regions. On the surface, it seems an unlikely state to wage and win a grass-roots campaign. This environment should benefit Dewhurst.
But in the weeks of early voting and up to when the polls open July 31, television viewership will be down, attention will shift to the beginning of football season, and only the most motivated of supporters will venture outdoors during the day. If turnout is low, Texas could get a lot smaller.
Several sources pointed to Dewhurst’s primary win on the day after Memorial Day, also a time when voters unplug from politics. A Dewhurst staffer also argues that Cruz will not benefit from the protest votes for Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) on the state’s May 29 GOP presidential primary ballot. The Cruz campaign dismisses that argument.
Political observers expect Dewhurst to pick up votes from the primary’s third-place candidate, former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert.
But Leppert has yet to endorse, and one source from his campaign said Dewhurst’s last-minute negative television advertising blitz against the former mayor was noticed and not appreciated.
“It’s incredibly hard for a candidate to endorse another candidate who … distorted his record,” the source said.
As for the big picture, the Dewhurst team frames the race as Texas conservatives vs. national conservatives — an argument that could work in a state where voters are particularly proud of their state and exhibit a sense of loyalty.
Dewurst’s staff and consultants make up an “Ocean’s Eleven”-like team of Texas Republicans. Gov. Rick Perry is also an enthusiastic campaign supporter.
Consequently, it is a contest featuring much of the state’s Republican political brain trust against Cruz’s passionate coalition of local tea parties and national cadre of conservative activists, including GOP Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.) and Rand Paul (Ky.) and groups such as FreedomWorks. Once a potential liability for Cruz, his outside backing is now viewed as a positive.
Several unaligned Republican operatives point to a specific moment when the ground shifted. Crowds at the state GOP convention in early June booed Perry when he mentioned Dewhurst’s name during his address. The governor, who has endorsed Dewhurst, usually receives positive receptions from base conservatives. The reaction stunned many, but some in Dewhurst’s camp dismissed it as an isolated incident.
“The people who booed Perry are the people who show up to runoff elections,” said one unaligned strategist who, much like other Republicans, is still deciding on which candidate will get his vote.