Wall Street Journal Names Craig James Top Contender for Senate Seat
By STEPHEN MOORE
Texas's open Senate seat is almost certain to stay in the Republican column this November, but the big dust up in the Long Horn State is over which Republican will win?
There are at least five candidates running for the seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is retiring. The "800 pound gorilla in the race," says Austin political newsletter editor Jim Cardle, is David Dewhurst, the current lieutenant governor. He has run a consistent 10- to 20-point lead over all comers and has tried to make his nomination seem inevitable. Mr. Dewhurst is a successful businessman who has reigned supreme over the Texas legislature for more than a decade.
The issue is whether Mr. Dewhurst, who is regarded more as a power broker than a bedrock conservative, can get above 50% in a five-person primary to avoid a runoff election against the second-place finisher. Conservatives have started to coalesce around Ted Cruz, the former state solicitor general. Craig James, a football hero in Texas who starred at Southern Methodist University before a career in the NFL and then as an ESPN announcer, is also a candidate. So is former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert. The real contest for now is which Republican will finish second in the primary. Conservatives think that Mr. Dewhurst would do poorly in a head-to-head matchup. Polls show Mr. Cruz, in particular, doing well with "very conservative" voters. On the other hand, a long-time political insider in Texas tells me that Mr. Cruz may be hurt by "his Hispanic surname, which could be a liability in some of the more red neck areas of the state." But to that, Mr. Cardle replies that "Republicans in Texas have much better relations with Hispanics than in other states." Also, Mr. Dewhurst has his own liabilities -- in 2005 he flirted with a type of state income tax, an issue that is politically radioactive in Texas.
This race has a lot in common with the Senate race in Florida in 2010. In that contest the incumbent moderate Republican governor, Charlie Crist, jumped out to an enormous lead and had the entire establishment behind him, but Marco Rubio relentlessly attacked his liberal positions and prevailed. Mr. James and Mr. Cruz seem to possess the talent to win the seat, but right now no one knows which one will rise to the occasion.