Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz got several bits of good news today. Not only is his main Tea Party-infused primary opponent, Michael Williams, likely to ditch the race and pursue a new congressional seat instead, but the former solicitor general of Texas was endorsed by three bellwethers in conservative movement politics: the FreedomWorks PAC, headed by former Texas Congressman and U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey; the unabashedly hard-right web site redstate.com; and the Club for Growth PAC, whose support for candidates promoting economic freedom and a pro-growth agenda is viewed by the faithful as a Good Housekeeping-style seal of approval.
Why Cruz, with other self-styled conservatives in the race and more, perhaps, to come? Why now, when the primary fight hasn't really begun in earnest?
"The earlier we endorse, the more money we can raise for a candidate," Club for Growth President Chris Chocola, a former two-term Republican congressman from Indiana, told the Tribune Thursday afternoon. "This is going to be a big, expensive race. The sooner we engage our members, the more support we can generate for Ted Cruz."
Cruz, Chocola said, "will be a champion of our issues. Some people are good votes, and some people are good leaders. We're convinced he'll be a leader in the vein of Mike Lee of Utah [a Tea Party favorite and freshman U.S. Senator who defeated incumbent Republican Robert Bennett in the GOP primary in March 2010]. He's committed to pro-growth issues. When we find someone like him, we move quickly."
What of the other candidates in the hunt?
Roger Williams, the former Texas Secretary of State, "has been kind of an establishment guy," Chocola said. "We generally don't support establishment guys. We want guys who are going to buck the leadership when appropriate." Tom Leppert, the former Dallas mayor, "sought the endorsement of unions," Chocola said. "He would argue he did not raise taxes, but he supported some efforts along those lines."
"These are not bad guys," Chocola said, "but on a relative basis, Ted Cruz supports our issues better than the others."
And what of the big dog who's not now in the race but may soon be: Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst? "He's not our guy," Chocola says. "He obviously has the resources to do whatever he wants, but we don't think he has a record as a leader on our issues."