Cruz Control at CPAC

Although at least two other candidates for the Republican nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R.-Tex.) were at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week, it was Ted Cruz who clearly got the most attention during the three-day conservative conclave in Washington, D.C.

The 40-year-old Cruz was the only one of the Senate hopefuls from Texas who addressed CPAC.  Moreover, he was interviewed by several national reporters, and stopped and encouraged by numerous well-wishers among the estimated crowd of 10,000 at the annual conference.

Why all the attention, one wonders, on one of several GOP Senate hopefuls a year before the primary?  And why Cruz, who served as clerk to the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a Bush administration official, and as his state’s solicitor general, but has never won elected office?

At CPAC, at least, the reason for the enthusiasm over Cruz had less to do with the several articles in news outlets about the political “star power” of the Cuban immigrant’s son and more to do with his record as one who seriously applies his conservatism to public policy.

“If you look to the records of all the [Senate] candidates—and I’m not going to say anything harsh about any of them—you’ll find that I’m the only one with a record of standing up for conservative causes and winning,” Cruz told HUMAN EVENTS between CPAC sessions.

He was referring to his record of advocating cases for the Lone Star State on controversial matters ranging from American sovereignty to pro-life laws to property rights measures.  Like just-elected GOP Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida, Cruz strikes a resonant chord with conservative activists.  The most important issue, as he put it, “will be whether we stop Barack Obama’s agenda, which is the explosion of federal government power, and thus remain a free market-based nation.”

When Hutchison hinted in 2009 at resigning last year to run for governor and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was mentioned as a candidate for her seat, Cruz laid the groundwork for a bid for his state’s top legal office.  In short order, he raised more than $1.3 million from more than 1,000 contributors in more than 100 Texas cities and 25 states.  As it turned out, Hutchison remained in the Senate and Abbott was reelected attorney general.  But the excitement about that Cruz campaign will carry over to a Senate race in 2012, his backers assured HUMAN EVENTS.

With the Republican primary considered tantamount to an election to succeed Hutchison, a crowded field is already shaping up.  State Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams and former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams are running, as is Elizabeth Ames Jones, herself a former railroad commissioner and daughter of Bexar County oilman Gene Ames.  The “800-pound gorilla,” as many Texas pundits dub him, is Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who has vast personal wealth and reportedly can sign a personal check to underwrite the entire campaign.  Most pundits and pols in Texas consider Dewhurst the favorite of the more moderate GOP “establishment” in the state.

A year is an eternity in politics, and much can change among Texas Republicans and in their Senate primary.  But if CPAC is any indication of conservative leanings and enthusiasm, then Ted Cruz is off to a good start.