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The easy victory of Houston lawyer Ted Cruz in the Republican U.S. Senate runoff in Texas shows the tea party movement remains a potent force in American politics.
It also highlights an anti-establishment frustration among voters, especially grass-roots conservative activists, which could influence national elections in November.
Cruz is a 41-year-old former state solicitor general and son of a Cuban immigrant father. The tea party favorite defeated Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst by 13 points Tuesday. In doing so, he overcame most of the Texas GOP establishment — including Gov. Rick Perry — that backed Dewhurst.
Now, Cruze will face Democratic state Rep. Paul Sadler in November’s general election to replace retiring Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office in nearly two decades.
The tea party scored major gains in 2010 congressional races, but has had mixed successes since. However, it managed a big win in May when it toppled veteran Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.
Cruz, who won the support of conservative Republicans, including ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, has called for tougher immigration laws, cutting taxes, sharp reductions in federal spending and curtailing the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Tea-party-backed lawmakers generally have resisted compromising on a range of budget and deficit issues. That could complicate navigating past a slew of upcoming fiscal deadlines, no matter who is elected president.