FORT WORTH — After a crowd of about 8,000 GOP loyalists roared with boos Thursday at the state Republican convention when Gov. Rick Perry praised Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst as the best choice in the U.S. Senate runoff, many wondered what the reception would be like when Dewhurst took the stage himself the next day.
But save for some isolated jeering that was greeted with a loud "Shhh" from other audience members, the lieutenant governor's speech went off without a hitch.
Several times he got a round of strong applause, particularly when he mentioned the passage of a voter ID law during the last legislative session and the 51 tax cuts he has helped to enact while in office. When he called to "send Barack Obama back to Chicago" the crowd erupted in cheers.
The audience wasn't as receptive to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, whose repeated calls for the party to rally around presumptive presidential candidate Mitt Romney drew loud and frequent negative reaction from the crowd, some of it coming from supporters of Ron Paul. After a few rounds of boos, other delegates eventually began to shout "Romney, Romney" to drown them out — and Hutchison briefly joined in from the podium.
It was Hutchison's last address to the convention as a U.S. senator — Dewhurst is entangled in a heated runoff race to take her spot with former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, who is set to speak tomorrow.
The reaction during Perry's speech Thursday appeared to be a sign that the party's grassroots voters — the ones most likely to turn out to vote in the July 31 runoff — were not behind Dewhurst. But in an interview with a Midland-area radio station Friday morning, Dewhurst blamed the booing that occurred when his name was mentioned on supporters of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson.
“Everyone told me it was more from some of the Ron Paul supporters,” Dewhurst said. He also took issue with the notion that the boos suggest he doesn’t have support among Tea Party members. “All of our polling shows we split the Tea Party vote with Ted right now,” Dewhurst said.
Aman Batheja contributed to this report.