In a much-watched Senate race in Texas seen as a battle between the tea party and the Republican establishment, a new poll shows tea party favorite Ted Cruz with a 10-point lead over incumbent Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst just ahead of Tuesday’s runoff election.
Dewhurst won the May 29 primary by 10 points in the race to replace retiring GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, but failed to get an outright majority.
The new survey conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) shows former state Solicitor General Cruz with 52 percent of the vote to 42 percent for Dewhurst, the traditional Republican choice.
And Cruz is far ahead among tea party voters, by a 75-percentage-point to 22-point margin, according to PPP, while Dewhurst leads 56 to 39 percent among voters who don’t consider themselves members of the tea party movement.
The Dewhurst campaign insists it is ahead, citing an internal poll showing him leading Cruz 48 percent to 43 percent.
PPP also found that Republican runoff voters are more likely to vote for a candidate backed by Sarah Palin, who supports Cruz, rather than a candidate backed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is supporting Dewhurst.
Thirty-one percent of respondents say they would vote for a candidate endorsed by Palin, while 16 percent are more likely to vote for Perry’s choice.
“Palin and Perry both have strong sway with the tea party movement, and the Texas GOP runoff has been billed as a battle between the tea party and the Republican establishment,” USA Today observed, noting that the runoff is “a sign of the ‘maturing’ of tea party forces.”
Perry is appearing with Dewhurst at a veterans group in San Antonio on Monday, then the pair will hold a fundraiser and visit a Dewhurst campaign phone bank in Dallas.
The two other candidates Dewhurst beat in the primary, former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and former ESPN analyst and college football star Craig James, are also campaigning for Dewhurst.
But several prominent politicians from outside Texas are actively supporting Cruz. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., “would like to add the tea party-backed Cruz to a cadre of senators trying to push the GOP agenda further right,” the San Antonio Express-News reported.
“Every Senate race is a national race,” DeMint declared.
Republican Sen. Paul Rand of Kentucky, who grew up in Texas, has campaigned for Cruz, as has Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who lived in Texas for two years.
Two Democrats are also involved in a runoff on Tuesday.
Cruz’s strong showing despite Gov. Perry’s backing of Dewhurst is “indicative of Perry’s diminished political standing in Texas after his failed presidential bid,” PPP states.
“And if Cruz really does end up winning big on Tuesday, it raises questions about whether [Perry] would be able to survive a strong Republican primary challenge in 2014.”
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