Ted Cruz returns to Texas as a hero who is reshaping the state Republican Party
By Karen Tumulty, Published: October 23
HOUSTON — Sharon Alford knows what they have been saying about her state’s junior senator up in Washington. Which is why she was standing here, among about 600 people in a sweltering warehouse, holding a hand-made sign that said, “We the people ♥ Ted Cruz.”
“He’s surrounded by enemies up there, and I want to show support for him in Texas,” she said. “I’m just hoping it’s like this around the country.”
Glenn Kessler 3:03 AM ET
Cruz may be the most reviled man in the U.S. Senate at the moment, not least among his Republican colleagues. He was the face and voice of the government shutdown strategy that brought the nation to the brink of default on its debt and left his party with its lowest poll ratings ever, while doing nothing to halt the implementation of the new health-care law.
But back in Texas, there is a different reality.
During the past week, Cruz has been greeted as a conquering hero, with a round of triumphal public appearances and welcome-home rallies such as the one that Alford attended Monday night in Houston, which was hastily arranged by the King Street Patriots tea party group.
Even more extraordinary is the degree to which the freshman senator — who until 2012 had never run for public office — has quickly remade the Texas Republican Party in his own image.Just about every GOP candidate with aspirations to statewide office in 2014 seems to be styling himself or herself after Cruz. In tight formation, they are moving hard to the right and looking for the next big populist rallying cry — secession, rolling back the state’s liberal immigration laws, impeaching President Obama, amending the Constitution to end the direct election of U.S. senators
His aura even extends to local races. “Some people call me the Ted Cruz of the city council,” boasted Helena Brown, who won her seat in Houston in 2011 and has proposed solving the city’s fiscal problems by defaulting on its pension obligations.
“Cruz was a once-in-a-generation kind of candidate. A lot of people are trying to re-create that magic,” said GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak. “Three or four years ago, the model you wanted to follow if you were a Texas politician was Rick Perry.” Perry, the Republican governor of Texas since 2000, has called the idea of shutting down the federal government to stop the health-care law “nonsensical.”
In an interview, Cruz hailed the new style of politics he has inspired as “a tremendously healthy development.” It is a message he is spreading elsewhere, notably in some of the early presidential contest states, including Iowa this weekend.“The grass roots are energized in Texas and understand they have the power to hold elected officials accountable,” he said.
Open to question is just how representative those grass roots are of a growing and increasingly diverse state .
To understand Texas politics, an important number to keep in mind is 750,000. In a state of 26 million people, that is how many votes it generally takes to prevail in a statewide Republican primary — which is tantamount to being elected, considering that no Democrat has won statewide office here since 1994.
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