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Perry Appears in Ad for Dewhurst as Texas Race Heats Up

Perry Appears in Ad for Dewhurst as Texas Race Heats Up

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - May 21, 2012


Texas Lt. Gov David Dewhurst, the front-runner in the Republican U.S. Senate primary on May 29, has dipped into his personal fortune to boost his prospects, and on Monday released a television ad featuring Gov. Rick Perry.

Just one week before voters head to the polls, the Lone Star State race for the GOP nod has become increasingly competitive, with Perry and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on opposing sides. Palin has endorsed Dewhurst’s chief rival, Tea Party favorite and former Solicitor General Ted Cruz, and voiced robo-calls on his behalf.

Dewhurst and Cruz are the top contenders in the primary to succeed retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Texas is a big state, but the political world there seems small in this instance: Palin endorsed Perry two years ago when Hutchison challenged him in a gubernatorial primary, and both Dewhurst and Cruz are Houston natives.

While Dewhurst holds a solid lead in the polls (he's ahead of Cruz, 40 percent-31 percent, in a University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey released Monday), the race appears headed for a runoff. Dewhurst must attract at least 50 percent of the support next Tuesday to avoid a late July face-off with the runner-up.

Recognizing the stakes, Dewhurst donated $6 million to his own campaign in the month of April and the first week of May, bringing his total personal contributions to $8 million. (He self-funded much of his bid for lieutenant governor as well.) In that same time period, Cruz hauled in $543,000, edging Dewhurst, who raised $500,000 from other sources.

Cruz, a Harvard Law School graduate who clerked for the Supreme Court, is attacking Dewhurst, an Air Force veteran who founded an energy company, as a moderate and the establishment’s pick. In the 30-second television spot titled “Proud,” Perry tries to combat that narrative: “David is the one candidate best prepared to make conservative change happen in Washington,” the former GOP presidential candidate says to the camera. “Don’t let anyone tell you different. Our country needs him, and so does Texas.” Dewhurst has also secured the endorsement of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who attracted conservatives in his failed 2008 presidential bid. 

Meanwhile, in robo-calls to voters, Palin is calling Cruz “a conservative you can trust to stand on principles and change the way Washington does business.” The former Alaska governor touts the Tea Party Express’ endorsement of Cruz, and notes that the candidate’s father fled Cuba, “seeking freedom.”

Outside groups are also actively involved in this primary. Club for Growth is pouring money into the race on behalf of Cruz, and launched a $1 million ad buy attacking Dewhurst. The conservative group spent $1.5 million on behalf of insurgent Richard Mourdock in his successful bid to oust Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar in a GOP primary earlier this month. The organization was also got involved in the Nebraska primary last week, but its favored candidate placed third. The Texas Conservatives Fund, a super PAC supporting Dewhurst, has spent $1.5 million on the race, according to the San Antonio Express.

On the Democratic side, former state Rep. Paul Sadler and Dallas resident Sean Hubbard appear to be the front-runners. The University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll finds Sadler leading by four points. But the open Senate seat is widely considered a safe bet for Republicans. 

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at chueyburns@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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