“I’m Moderate David Dewhurst, and I Approve this Message”

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Elections

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It’s game time for the conservative movement.  With the Wisconsin recall fizzling out by the day, it appears that the runoff between Dewhurst and Cruz will be the most important battle for conservatives this year.  We must not sit this one out!

Last night Dewhurst won by just 10.4 points, despite enjoying a bigger lead in the polls throughout the entire duration of the campaign.  He garnered 44.6% to Cruz’s 34.2%.  There will be a runoff July 31, which gives us plenty of time to make up the margin.

I noticed that many supporters and detractors of Cruz expressed their surprise over the fact that Dewhurst still won by 10 points.  After all, they contended, if Cruz is such an attractive candidate, why didn’t he come out on top?  How is he going to make up the margin in the runoff?

There are a few points to consider.  First, although Cruz is a household name among conservative activists, he was an unknown quantity to most voters, even Republican primary voters.  That’s why he was polling in the single digits for a long time.  Dewhurst, on the other hand, is the sitting Lt. Governor for a decade who has full name recognition and the backing of the entire establishment, not to mention Rick Perry.  He has unlimited personal wealth to go up on the air and distort his record and the record of his opponent.  Ted Cruz has made steady progress throughout the campaign, and last night’s results reflect that upward trajectory.  The votes cast on election day itself split  41.4% for Dewhurst and 38.1% for Cruz.

More importantly, we must remember that moderate Republicans never run as moderates anymore, at least not in the primaries.  While it is patently obvious to those of us in the field that Cruz is a conservative star and that Dewhurst helped grow government in the Texas legislature, that is not necessarily the narrative that is communicated to the majority of voters.  In fact, Dewhurst has used all his money to evince a conservative image while painting Cruz as a pro-amnesty China-loving pinko liberal!  Fred Upton is doing the same in Michigan, as he sends out think mailers every week painting his conservative challenger as a tax and spend liberal.

I love how establishment pundits make snarky comments about our candidates whenever the moderate Republicans do well in elections.  They view the results as a vindication of their belief that our “extreme” candidates cannot win at the ballot box.  The problem is that these guys never run as moderates.  Far from it, they actually attempt to outflank the conservative challenger on the right.  I doubt that most of the voters who selected Dewhurst would tell you something like this: “You know what?  We need more moderates like Dewhurst who will vote alongside Mitch McConnell.”  In fact, Dewhurst rolled up some of his widest margins in some of the most conservative counties in the country.

Unfortunately, Dewhurst will continue his campaign of deception throughout the next two months.  He’ll have millions of dollars to spend on TV ads running to the right of Cruz.  You’ll never hear an ad from him with the following disclaimer: “I’m David Dewhurst, moderate from Texas, and I’m running for Senate because we need more moderates who will stand with Mitch McConnell against extremists like Cruz and DeMint.”  Candidates that have chosen that strategy, like Dick Lugar and Bob Bennett, lost in a landslide.

Fortunately, Dewhurst’s TV ads are not enough to carry the day for him on July 31.  In a low-turnout runoff election, everything hinges on the most dedicated, high-intensity voters.  We can overcome Dewhurst’s inherent advantage by building a ground game second to none in an effort to turnout all the devoted Republican voters.  There is no question that the use of “Gravity” in the field for Cruz was a serious asset, and it will play a larger role in the runoff.  We all need to pitch in to help the Cruz campaign with the GOTV effort for the next two months.  But he will still need more donations to help cut Dewhurst’s advantage over the airwaves.

This election, especially in a state like Texas, is too important to lose.  As Senator DeMint said last night, “a Republican majority is pointless if it isn’t achieved with conservatives who will fight to stop the spending and debt.”  Let’s win one more for the Gipper!