Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst crossed the Chick-fil-A parking lot in Austin on Monday morning holding one of the fast food chain’s signature white paper bags. He stopped before a phalanx of reporters and television cameras positioned nearby so that the Chick-fil-A sign would be visible behind him.
“Sorry I’m a few minutes late,” Dewhurst said.
The previous 12 hours had not been good for the lieutenant governor. Though his primary runoff against former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz isn't until tomorrow, Politico practically called the race for Cruz in a story published Sunday evening. An hour later, a new independent poll came out showing Cruz leading Dewhurst by 10 points.
The Chick-fil-A event was added to Dewhurst’s schedule to give him the chance to show he stands with the beleaguered fast-food chain following controversy over the company president’s comments opposing same-sex marriage. Cruz has also expressed support for the company.
Dewhurst, flanked by sign-wielding supporters, kept his remarks brief.
“You know, in Texas, we encourage all entrepreneurs to come to Texas and live their dreams,” Dewhurst said. “Over the weekend, Rahm Emanuel, the mayor in Chicago, said he didn’t want to see any more Chick-fil-A’s in Chicago because it doesn’t represent Chicago values. Well, Mr. Mayor, you don’t represent Texas values and Chicago doesn’t represent Texas values," he continued. "In Texas, we encourage all entrepreneurs to come in and invest, to create jobs and to achieve their dreams.”
Dewhurst paused and searched the cameras and audio recorders pointed at him.
The first question, and most of those that came afterward, were variations on the same theme: Did Dewhurst still think he could win?
“Well, I’m proud of our position in the polls,” Dewhurst said. “Our polls have us winning. They’ve had us winning all along, so I feel real good about tomorrow.”
When asked about the weekend survey from Public Policy Polling that showed Dewhurst with 42 percent support to Cruz’s 52 percent, Dewhurst pointed to the firm’s use of automated telephone polling.
“Well robo-polls, I’ve never put much stock into,” Dewhurst said.
He touted the same aspects of his record he had been citing for the past year on the campaign trail: his experience in the Legislature cutting taxes and balancing budgets, his roots as a “lifelong businessman.” Citing the Chick-fil-A controversy, he noted his work amending the Texas Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
“I want to go to Washington and turn Washington upside down because it’s broken,” Dewhurst said.
When someone brought up the possibility of Cruz coming out ahead, Dewhurst responded, “I think we’re going to be winning tomorrow night.”
The lieutenant governor then left to catch a plane to San Antonio. He was set to spend the rest of the day with Gov. Rick Perry at public events in San Antonio and Dallas, and then at a Dallas fundraiser that evening.
As the campaign car pulled out of the parking lot, it stopped before reporters. Dewhurst was in the passenger seat with the window down. He took a bite out of his chicken sandwich.
“It’s good,” he said as the car drove off.