Tea Party Alive and Well in Texas Senate Race

GOP rivals must duke it out in run-off election

Ted Cruz
Texas US Senate Republican primary candidate Ted Cruz talks to the media on election day, Tuesday, May 29, 2012, in Houston.

The heat is on in Texas, where a pair of conservative Republicans will battle it out until July 31 for the right to take on their Democratic competition for retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's seat.

After failing to secure 50 percent of the vote during a nine-way primary, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst must continue campaigning against his top Republican rival, Ted Cruz. Though Dewhurst is backed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, it's Cruz who has the support of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Tea Party champion Sen. Jim DeMint, and conservative groups willing to dump cash into the race on his behalf, including the Club for Growth and the Tea Party Express.

[Read: Romney clinches GOP nomination.]

Dewhurst, who garnered about 45 percent of the vote during Tuesday's primary, often was sent to work with Texas legislators on behalf of Perry and therefore earned a reputation as a dealmaker despite his solid conservative credentials. He's also been an elected official for 15 years, another strike against him in an anti-incumbent, anti-compromise landscape.

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Cruz, meanwhile, is a Cuban-American lawyer who espouses absolute fidelity to the Constitution and a hard-line, anti-tax position. He secured about 34 percent of the vote in Tuesday's primary, earning him a spot in the run-off election to be held at the end of July.

Experts expect a showdown, and a costly one.. A pair of Democrats are also facing a run-off election but since Texas hasn't elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1988, whoever wins the GOP race is likely to win the general election in the fall.

Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at rmetzler@usnews.com or follow her on Twitter.

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