Opinion Brief

Texas' Ted Cruz: The GOP's next Marco Rubio?

Another young, Cuban-American conservative upstart is setting Tea Party hearts aflutter. Can Cruz pull off an upset in Texas the way Rubio did in Florida?

Former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz has forced establishment favorite Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst into a July run-off in the state's Republican Senate primary. On paper, the Lone Star State match-up looks a lot like the 2010 Florida contest between former Gov. Charlie Crist and Tea Party darling Marco Rubio. Like Crist, Dewhurst has the support of the state's GOP insiders, but Tea Partiers are blasting him as insufficiently conservative. And like Rubio, Cruz is a young, Cuban-American firebrand endorsed by Tea Party heroes — including Sarah Palin and Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina — who insists he's the kind of fighter conservatives need in Washington. Can Cruz pull off an upset and become this year's Marco Rubio?

Cruz certainly has a shot: Like Rubio, Republicans see Cruz as their "great nonwhite hope in a huge and diverse state that Republicans can’t afford to cede as it becomes more Latinized," says Bob Moser at The American Prospect. So he is the new Rubio, at least for the month leading up to the run-off. And if Cruz can pull off an upset in July, he'll become a senator and get the Rubio role for keeps, because "in a state as red as Texas, general elections are mostly formalities" for GOP candidates."Republican showdown in Texas"

And he could renew the Tea Party revolution: Cruz is just the "sort-of-cocky young gunner" Rubio was two years ago, says Chris Miles at PolicyMic, branding Dewhurst as "a part of the establishment (a damning name in today's political environment)." And after the ousting of veteran Republican Sen. Richard Lugar by another Tea Party upstart in Indiana, Cruz might wind up playing a starring role in "a wider story of Tea Party insurgency in election 2012.""Ted Cruz beats David Dewhurst (kind of) and sparks a new Tea Party revolution"

But he lacks Rubio's political experience: Cruz and Rubio both boast oratory skills that made them national Tea Party powerhouses "seemingly overnight," says Fox News Latino. But Rubio went into his race with several years in the Florida statehouse under his belt, while "Cruz has never appeared on a ballot." Of course, Cruz is trying to turn that weakness into an asset — joking that politicians are "blood-sucking parasites" — to prove he's the kind of fighter Texans tell pollsters they want. But only time will tell if that strategy works."Ted Cruz: Texas' answer to Marco Rubio"

And Dewhurst is a formidable opponent: Cruz might be the new Rubio, says Rachel Weiner at The Washington Post. But Dewhurst is no Charlie Crist. Dewhurst hasn't "broken with his party in major ways, as Crist did," and he remains popular — he almost reached 50 percent to avoid a run-off in Tuesday's primary. Sure, if turnout is low in the Texas summer heat and Cruz's grassroots network can get out the vote, Cruz could pull off an upset like Rubio's. "But his victory likely won't be as easily won" as Rubio's was."Is Ted Cruz the next Marco Rubio?"

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