COMMENTARY | Pundits crowed over the potential for Sen. Ted Cruz to provide a Tea Party takeover in Texas. He bequeathed endorsements on the most conservative candidates he could find, painting bullseyes on the backs of anyone he considered too moderate. And on the evening of the nation’s first primary, Cruz and his allies flopped worse than the film “Lone Ranger.” At least that movie made some money its opening weekend.
Cruz’s top target was Majority Whip John Cornyn, a man with judicial, executive and legislative experience, and a conservative record. But Cornyn was too moderate for Cruz’s caricature of conservatism. Sen. Cruz publicly refused to endorse him.
But Cruz’s preference, Rep. Steve Stockman, was an embarrassment. In addition to lackluster fundraising, Stockman actually went AWOL for key votes and other engagements, yet made sure he was present for an overseas congressional trip, the ones Tea Partiers typically rail against. Stockman was hammered by 45 percentage points in his lopsided loss. The Cornyn-Cruz tandem in Texas is likely to be frostier than the San Francisco 49ers GM and Coach Jim Harbaugh.
Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, also part of the GOP leadership, was targeted for being too moderate. But the high profile challenge by Katrina Pierson, backed by Cruz, fizzled as well.
In fact, of all the high profile races faced by incumbents, only two were forced into a runoff. Lt. David Dewhurst, Cruz’s opponent, is fighting for his political life, as is 90 year old ex-Democrat Ralph Hall, running in the GOP primary.
It is likely that Cruz will claim victory in those two races, as he did with his filibuster that breathed life into the Democrats during the budget standoff and led Republicans to cave. That’s despite the fact that rank-and-file GOP members have questioned Dewhurst’s effectiveness for some time, and Hall should have retired years ago.
Sen. Cruz may have hoped for long coattails to bring more acolytes into office in Texas, but if he was wearing anything on election night, it was a speedo.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga.