We knew it already, but Ted Cruz is Texas' next U.S. Senator. Sure, he still has to face Democrat Paul Sadler in the November general election, but this is Texas, where so long as you promise to cut taxes and put a big 'R' somewhere near your name, you're good.
The victory, unthinkable a few months ago when Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was still seen as the anointed one, is now reverberating throughout the country, seen by many as ushering in a new era of Tea Party dominance. Writing last night at the Morning News, Bill McKenzie wondered if this election was the equivalent to Bill Clements' election as governor in 1978, a harbinger of a permanent shift in Texas politics.
But that's not what this is. Cruz's victory does show that the Tea Party is still a viable force, but as Paul Burka at Texas Monthly noted last night, it wasn't the sweeping victory of 2010. Cruz wom, as did Donna Campbell in a Central Texas race for state senate. But many more races favored the more moderate candidates, including, locally, Jason Villalba's win over Bill Keffer for the state house, and Tincy Miller's victory over Gail Spurlock for the State Board of Education. A much greater factor in Cruz's victory was Cruz himself, who Burka calls "by far the most talented person in Texas politics."
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His election, as a Republican consultant suggested, is not going to turn Texas purple. Texas is going to stay blood red until demographics shift enough to change that. But it looks from here like the Tea Party has peaked. They still have the energy and clout to decide a Republican primary with ridiculously small turnout -- particularly when they field someone unusually charismatic -- and it will remain a political force in the state legislature for a few years, but it won't dominate the political landscape. Not even in Texas.
In the meantime, Burka gives us reason to hope that Cruz won't be the rabid, inflexible ideologue he plays so convincingly on TV.
"My first reaction was that he is an ideologue, but I don't think he'll remain one for long," he writes. "He's going to figure out the Senate and his role in it."
Let's hope so, or God help us all.