In a major Southern state, a rising, young Latino political star comes seemingly out of nowhere to challenge an establishment politician with high name recognition who holds state office. The underdog starts out in low single digits in the polls. The favorite has a virtually insurmountable lead, both in the polls and in funding. The underdog challenger runs an insurgent campaign and gains steadily on the favorite, chipping away at the favorite’s huge lead. In the run-up to election day, the underdog takes the lead. Having Rubio déjà vu? If it were July of 2010, this story would’ve been about Marco Rubio in Florida.
But it is July 2012, and this story is about Ted Cruz in Texas.
After trailing the favorite for months and forcing a July 31 GOP primary runoff for the U.S. Senate, Cruz has taken the lead in the race. According to a poll by Public Policy Polling released Thursday, Cruz holds a 49 percent to 44 percent lead among likely voters against his opponent, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.
Thirty-eight percent of the population of Texas is Hispanic and those voters could be pivotal for Cruz, who according to the same poll holds a lead of 78 percent to 19 percent among likely Hispanic voters. In a separate survey of likely runoff voters by Wenzel Strategies, Cruz leads 48 percent to Dewhurst’s 38 percent, with 14 percent undecided. Cruz victories in the runoff and general election would be historic, much like Rubio’s win in Florida.
Cruz’ story reads like a classic immigrant success story. His father emigrated from Cuba in the 1950s. After growing up in Houston, Cruz attended Princeton for undergrad, followed by Harvard law school. He clerked for the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court before moving on to private practice, working on a the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign in 2000, and doing stints at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. He’s served as Solicitor General of Texas, where he argued over 40 cases, including nine in the U.S. Supreme Court.
And by the way, Cruz is just 41 years old.
Stay tuned. The final debate between the now-favorite Cruz and his opponent is July 17 at 7pm CST/8pm EST and will be streamed live at www.dallasnews.com. The runoff comes just two weeks later, on July 31. If the déjà vu continues, the next U.S. Senator from the Great State of Texas will be Senator Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio will have a Latino colleague in the U.S. Senate.
Pablo Schneider is CEO of The Wider Net and a Special Advisor to AP Capital Holdings.