HOUSTON — Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst today likened attorney Ted Cruz to President Barack Obama, tarring his opponent in Texas’ Senate Republican primary as the Washington insiders’ bought-and-paid-for candidate who is practicing the same negative attacks that Obama is using against presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Meeting with voters lunching at a popular Jewish deli in the Galleria neighborhood just west of downtown, Dewhurst used his only campaign stop of primary day to stump for last-minute votes and make the case that he is the only candidate in the race with Texas’ interests at heart. Speaking to reporters before the made-for-local-TV-news event, a relaxed Dewhurst reaffirmed his conservative credentials and called Cruz a liar.
“What we’re seeing in Washington is President Obama, who can’t run on his record, is now running on the politics of personal destruction of Governor Romney. And I submit that Mr. Cruz has no record, and so he’s trying to run against me by impugning my fiscally conservative and social conservative record,” Dewhurst said, before speaking to voters inside Kenny & Ziggy’s Deli. “Mr. Cruz will lie and say one thing one day, and he’ll say something else the next.”
Cruz, the former Texas solicitor general, has garnered the strong support from tea-party-affiliated Senators, such as Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rand Paul (Ky.), and conservative activist groups based in Washington, D.C., including the Club For Growth and FreedomWorks. Their money and public support has been indispensable in making Cruz competitive with the generally popular and well-funded lieutenant governor, who has poured almost $10 million of his own money into the Senate race.
But it was apparent that Dewhurst, like Cruz a Houston native, was attempting to turn Cruz’s bevy of out-of-state support against him. In some sentences describing the attorney’s backers, Dewhurst used the word “Washington” two or three times while contending that the bulk of his own support has emanated from the Lone Star State. Dewhurst has racked endorsements from several Texas-based conservative groups and Gov. Rick Perry.
“I think at the end of the day, Texans are too smart to have Washington insiders — special interest groups — try and pick their own hand-picked Senator. I’m running as a Texan,” Dewhurst said. “Quite frankly, I don’t think Texans want to see outside groups from Washington come in and buy an election. The special PACs — the special Washington interests in Washington — have spent running 100 percent untrue ads against me — some $6.5 million. So, I’m not going to let an outside group come in and pick who they want to be the next United States Senator. So, I’ve tried to level the playing field.”
Dewhurst is expected to finish first when the votes are counted this evening. The drama involves whether Cruz, or possibly another candidate, can hold the lieutenant governor below 50 percent and force a July 31 runoff between the top two candidates. Early voting produced a relatively strong turnout of 500,000 to 600,000, Texas GOP sources said. But it was unclear how busy the polls would be on primary day, which was occurring almost three months later than usual.
Dewhurst, noting that he has finished every election in his political career as the top vote-getter, sounded cautiously optimistic that he might avoid a runoff. But the lieutenant governor brushed aside the confidence Cruz supporters have expressed about beating him in a runoff if one happens, saying he was prepared for that eventuality.
“I’ve been a fighter all my life, and I have never not been the top vote getter in any race. I don’t intend to not be the top vote getter in any race going forward,” Dewhurst said, indicating that the poll released Thursday by Public Policy Polling that showed him in first with 46 percent was on the right track. “It really depends on who turns out to vote today, really. That’s what it depends on. This is an unusual election, the day after Memorial Day.”
The polls in Texas are scheduled to close at 8 p.m. Eastern time.