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Cruz Versus Dewhurst: More Than a Primary

Ron T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT
In terms of style, rhetoric, legislative philosophy and temperament, the Texas Republican Senatorial candidates are quite different. If elected, former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz will join the Republicans’ “Uncompromising Caucus,” while Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (above) is willing to look for middle ground if that is what is needed to get things done, Stuart Rothenberg writes.

I saw Cruz a couple of times in March of this year, and my interview with him couldn’t have been more different from my experience with Dewhurst.

I normally begin interviews by getting some biographical information, to find out who the candidate is and what kind of personal narrative he might offer to voters. Only then do we move to the race and his campaign.

We did that with Cruz, but it was clear he didn’t want to talk about his life story (which is interesting) as much as he wanted to prosecute his case. He went point by point as to why he was going to finish second in the initial primary vote and why he was going to win the runoff against the lieutenant governor.

I’ve seen self-confident and aggressive candidates before, but Cruz, who has degrees from Princeton University and Harvard Law School and clerked for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, was off the charts on those two dimensions.

He seemed certain that he was right about everything and apparently believed it’s unnecessary for a politician to connect with voters in any way other than on a checklist of issue positions. Given that style, he almost made Dewhurst seem warm and fuzzy.

There certainly is a big difference between the two Republican hopefuls, but I didn’t see it as a matter of ideology. They both want lower taxes, less spending and less government, and they both support what conservatives refer to as traditional values.

The difference between the two men is simple: Cruz is not willing to compromise even if it means being irrelevant to the legislative process, while Dewhurst is willing to look for middle ground if that is what is needed to get things done.

To conservative activists such as Erickson, that difference defines Dewhurst as a moderate or liberal, even though conservative columnist George Will concluded that the assertion that Dewhurst is a moderate is “nonsense.”

Dewhurst, who has been endorsed by the third- and fourth-place finishers in the primary, former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and sportscaster Craig James, turns 67 in less than three weeks. Cruz turns 42 in December. The age difference is important because it suggests that Dewhurst is not likely to have a long-term effect on the state or national Republican Party, while Cruz could.

Indeed, given his worldview and personal style, I’d expect Cruz to become a significant voice for conservative purists who believe their party has been too willing to give up on principle.

If elected, Cruz certainly will join the GOP’s “Uncompromising Caucus,” which includes DeMint, Lee, Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and a handful of others, making it more difficult for his party’s leadership and for the Senate to deal with the nation’s problems.

If you like that idea, you’ll like Cruz. If it scares the stuffing out of you, you’ll prefer Dewhurst.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

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