Ted Cruz win biggest upset of 2012?

Sean Sullivan, Washington Post:
We were reminded this cycle that no candidate is ever 100 percent safe, no matter the advantage in name recognition, money, or campaign apparatus. Every cycle, there are handful of head-turning upsets, and 2012 was no exception.

Wednesday we are handing out the Fixy – the coveted political awards that we, well, made up — for the biggest upset of 2012. While there were several good options to choose from, one stood above the rest: Ted Cruz’s upset of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the Texas Senate Republican primary. His upset was a true grassroots victory against very long odds.

Dewhurst began the campaign in 2011 with just about everything a statewide candidate running in Texas could want: A strong fundraising apparatus and the ability to self-fund millions of dollars, widespread name identification,connections to the state’s most influential pols, and the goodwill of the state’s popular Republican governor.

Cruz, meanwhile, was simply a little-known former state solicitor general with an intriguing profile but a long way to go in a state with multiple expensive media markets that require millions of dollars to stay in the advertising game.

But with attention-grabbing speeches and media appearances, the underdog slowly began catching the attention of influential national conservative players, including South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint’s PAC and the anti-tax Club For Growth, both of which opened up their wallets to support Cruz’s campaign. Cruz also begun coalescing conservative grassroots support inside the state. His Cuban heritage, relative youth, and conservatism brought him comparisons to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

But Dewhurst was no Charlie Crist, the Republican and now independent Rubio defeated in his 2010 primary. That’s what made Cruz’s win so remarkable. Dewhurst didn’t run a bad campaign, and while he had his share of critics on the right, he could hardly be called a liberal Republican. Cruz simply ran a better campaign and simply convinced voters he was more conservative.

It didn’t hurt Cruz that a third candidate, self-funding former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, was in the Republican race as well, peeling votes away from Dewhurst. Cruz finished second to Dewhurst in the late May primary, but because the lieutenant governor received less than 50 percent of the vote, a late July runoff was triggered. Cruz won that race, even as Dewhurst went hard negative with brutal ads tying him to China.

Now, the question is what type of profile Cruz wants to craft for himself in the Senate. He’s shown early signs of a willingness to be a sort of ambassador between conservative activists and Senate Republican leadership. He’s joining the National Republican Senatorial Committee as a vice chair to incoming head Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and part of his role will involve reaching out to conservative groups and activists in the hopes of fostering better harmony between the two sides in Republican primaries.
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Ted actually outworked the other candidates.  He made it a point to attend every Tea Party gathering he could find and show up for their debates and forums.   Dewhurst rarely campaigned in those gatherings.  Cruz is also a skilled debater which showed in the few events where the candidates took the stage together.  Democrats should be warned.

Ted also had an effective online effort that left other candidates trying to catch up.  He was good a creating buzz early in the race which got him the attention he needed to compete with a better known opponent.

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