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Ted Cruz Beats David Dewhurst (Kind Of) and Sparks a New Tea Party Revolution

Are we seeing a Tea Party wave sweeping across the 2012 elections?

Ted Cruz forced a runoff election in the Texas GOP Senate race on Tuesday. David Dewhurst, a Republican with years of state-level service, was short of the 50% majority needed to earn the nomination outright. The two men will now face a runoff election on July 31 to advance to the November general election. A runoff also will decide the Democratic primary.

After a Tea Party flare-up in the Indiana primary — which saw veteran Republican Senator Richard Lugar unseated by an up-start Tea Party candidate — conservative voters may again vent their rage at the Republican establishment in Texas.

One of the biggest races in Tuesday’s Texas primary pits four Republicans seeking their party's nomination for the Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison. Ted Cruz, a Tea Partier, is looking to upset Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who was until recently seen as all but certain to fill the seat.

A year ago, when Hutchinson announced she would not run for re-election, Dewhurst, a staple on the state political scene, was considered a shoe-in.  

Enter the Tea Party.

The newest polls show Dewhurst pulling ahead, but not by a majority. That could mean a run-off election later in the summer. A Cruz victory would also be another win for a Tea Party insurgent against an established Republican ... which may be ominous.

In order to avoid a run-off this July, Dewhurst needs to earn at least 50% of the vote, a threshold he has yet to breach in recent surveys. If Cruz can maintain his second-place positioning and keep Dewhurst under the 50% mark, he could build on a recent surge in momentum and publicity.

Cruz, who has earned endorsements from Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum, has been described by the Wall Street Journal as a sort-of-cocky young gunner, a mix between Florida libertarian Sen. Marco Rubio and Utah Sen. Mike Lee. 

Cruz was the first Hispanic solicitor general in Texas, the youngest solicitor general in the United States, and had the longest tenure in the post thus far in Texas history.

The latest numbers from Public Policy Polling show Dewhust in the lead with 46% support, followed by former Cruz with 29%; former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert with 15%; and former ESPN analyst Craig James at 3%.

Dewhurst has dumped another $6 million of his own money into his effort to ward off Cruz (after an initial amount of at least $2 million).

Cruz has called Dewhurst a part of the establishment (a damning name in today’s political environment), and criticized the lieutenant governor for running ads suggesting Cruz supports amnesty for illegal immigrants (damning in conservative Texas).

If Cruz manages to win the runoff, the Tea Party movement in Texas and Indiana may be prologue to a wider story of Tea Party insurgency in election 2012.

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