Ted Cruz, one of tea party’s latest and brightest stars, said Sunday the movement that helped propel him to victory in last week’s runoff for the Texas Republican Senate nomination is here to stay as a major political force.
While the movement isn’t spawning the number of high-profile rallies, marches and town-hall meetings it did in its early years after the 2008 elections, he says that’s because its activists now are better organized and focus most of their time and effort on one thing; working to elect fiscal-conservative candidates to public office.
Mr. Cruz, who shocked the GOP establishment in Texas and nationwide by beating Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst by almost 14 percentage points in Tuesday’s runoff election, says his victory was emblematic of the movement’s growth and influence nationally.
“It was a victory for grass-roots conservatives all over the state,” he said. “It illustrated, at the end of the day, the way elections are supposed to be decided. They’re supposed to be decided not by a handful of people in a dark room writing checks and picking the next nominee, but they’re supposed to be decided by ‘we the people.’ “
Yet more outside money — $14.6 million — from groups like political action committees, or PACs, and so-called super PACs, flowed into the Texas Senate race than any in the nation except for the presidential contest, says OpenSecrets.org, a nonpartisan website that tracks money in politics.
The biggest outside spenders were Club for Growth Action, which spent about $5.6 million to try to push Mr. Cruz to victory, and the pro-Dewhurst Texas Conservatives Fund, which doled out about $5.5 million to attack the tea-party favorite.
Despite some worries among tea-party activists regarding Mitt Romney’s conservative credentials, Mr. Cruz predicted the movement will “overwhelmingly” support the presumptive Republican presidential nominee in November.
“The grass roots are energized because the absolutely highest priority in the country in November is to defeat Barack Obama,” Mr. Cruz said. “I have spoken with literally thousands and thousands of tea-party activists — I have yet to meet a single tea-party leader that is not going to vote for Mitt Romney and work hard for him.”
While polls show Mr. Romney is significantly trailing President Obama for support among Hispanic voters, Mr. Cruz said Hispanics should feel comfortable with the Republicans because their values are fundamentally conservative.
Mr. Cruz — whose father immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba — added that Hispanics are about “hard work and responsibility” and don’t like to accept government handouts.
“In my life, I never once have seen an Hispanic panhandler,” he said. “Because in our community, it would be viewed as shameful to be out on the street begging.”
When asked on Fox News if Mr. Romney would be wise to pick a tea-party-supported conservative like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida or House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate, Mr. Cruz said both men would be “terrific” choices but declined to speculate further.
Mr. Cruz will face former state Rep. Paul Sadler in the November general election, although the Democrat will have a huge cash disadvantage and will be a significant underdog in the heavily Republican state.
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Sean Lengell covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at email@example.com.
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